I pull into an empty warehouse parking lot across the street from my church. The car putters to quiet and I rub at my neck--it's like little plastic army men are jabbing at my neck bones with guns. I can't shake these aches. It feels like I've had them for a week. I got mad at Gigi this morning, too, because of it. Not good. I pop two Aspirin and climb out of the car. Ten minutes late to the church service. This is normal.
I find my friend Katie in the back of the church, at the very top row of the bleachers. This is as far back as you can get. I put my keys down and lean back against the wall, still standing up--I came in mid-worship. Katie turns to smile at me and I smile back, glad for her company and relieved to not be sitting alone. The third song is a rendition of a hymn that I recognize but cannot name. Before I know it, something has shattered inside my head and I’m crying, feeling some floodgate start to creak open, letting out a trickle that wants to be a stream, but I plug it--or at least I try to. How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me. I'm hardly mouthing the words.
All I can think of is my maternal grandmother sitting at her organ, singing. Or in their church in the near-back pew, head raised to the song leader and following his motions, singing. And then I see her in the nursing home where I only visited her twice—was it really only twice?--with her head to the sky and her eyes far off, singing. That was my grandmother; she lost her memory in her last years but held onto hymns for so long.
I keep singing the song as it shows up on the overhead and the tears keep coming, and all I’m thinking of is faithfulness, faithfulness, and dedication. Trusting and hoping, and the solid love that we sometimes can’t show, but we feel it, don’t we? My grandmother, I must think, felt that love. She banked on it. I want that love in my heart. And I can’t keep my insides from showing it and revealing it outwardly.
My friend Katie can see me. I'm crying hard enough that people can tell. Oh Maggie, I say to myself, this is real. And is it really that bad? No. It's not. Katie asks if I’m okay, and of course I say yes, though part of me wants to say ehhhh, I don't really know. I feel okay, I feel not okay, I feel wonderful. Because I know without a doubt that these moments are the good moments, the ones we are alive for at all, when memories call to mind deep emotion and we’re struck by thankfulness and a desire to accept both ourselves, and God. I know this outward, other force to be God--a deep, deep Love--hope--that keeps me moving forward in faith that I'll never fall too far away from him.
After the song is over and we sit down, Katie’s husband (who joined us, finally), leans over with his hand out, a cookie in it. He asks if I want it and without hesitation, I say yes, emphatically, YES. I take it and exclaim, "it’s warm! How is it warm!?" It’s one of those Speculoos cookies, windmill cookies. Katie’s husband gestures to the coffee below him, where he’d laid the cookies (he had two) on top. I eat the thing with gladness and wipe at my eyes, looking to the sky out the windows to the left, soaking in the fact that I am here in these bleachers, my head doesn’t hurt, and I’m thankful.