I do not pride myself as being very religious. Spiritual, yes, religious no. My philosophy and the bumper sticker I proudly drove around with on my car for many years said ” God is too big to fit into one religion”. So it surprised me on Easter Sunday when I woke up with an overwhelming urge to go to church.
I had been struggling with life choices in the weeks before, my friend had been injured in Italy, my grandmother is dying, and I had a whole lot of surrendering around my family and relationships to do. I decided to attend Easter services and light some candles in the local Catholic Church to find some peace. I unknowingly was one hour and 45 minutes early for mass.
I sat by myself and I prayed in my way, and then I allowed my tears to flow for each of the above mentioned reasons. I lit my candles and I prayed some more. Somewhere in between the prayers and the tears, I knew that in order for me to feel better, I had to accept all these situations as they were without trying to control any of them.
We do not have the power to change an illness, heal an injury, make someone act in a certain way or change circumstances to be exactly how we want them to be. At some point we have to surrender to a universally connected higher power and let the flow of life continue as it is accorded. When I was ready, I rose up, felt better and thought ” I got it”
Then I saw the man. Sitting by himself, 83 years old, searching my eyes for conversation as I passed the holy water. I said hello and smiled, and he asked if he knew me? I told him that it was a small town and we had probably bumped into each other and I reached out my hand to introduce myself and as he reached to shake it, he began to cry.
I sat. ” Are you ok?” I asked. “I’m just lonely” he spilled out with a very strong German accent. “Shaking your hand was the first contact I’ve had in a long time”. My wife died two years ago and I am alone, all the time. I come here to be around people and your smile was the first light I’ve felt, can we just talk for a minute”?
35 minutes later, I had heard how lonely and sad his life had become, his strained relationship with his children who blamed him for their mothers death, the medications that were making him crazy, his loneliness that was making him crazy and he didn’t feel like he even wanted to be on the planet any more.
I honestly didn’t know what to do but listen, and then out of my mouth came the words I longed to hear ” Surrender Mike, just take a deep breath and let go of all the things that are making you sad. You can’t control how your kids feel, but you can call them and tell them you love them in spite of their anger. Life is too short to be unhappy and leave loving words unsaid. We were meant to be happy and often when life is only allowing us to see the negatives, we are lost in our dooming thoughts. You are here today and life is good. You are alive, joy is in the air and just as Jesus rose from the dead, you can rise up today and make a move towards your next 83 years being the best they can be. “
Then I had to look around and ask who said that. This, from the non-religious girl.
As often happens to me, like a hammer on the head , I realized I was not living my own advice. Yet by taking a few minutes to stop and help a stranger, I got what I walked into that church for. I didn’t even stay for mass.
I saw one of the church choir members I know well this morning. She had happened by in the middle of Mike and I’s conversation Easter morning,and she told me that after mass, Mike stopped her to tell her that I had plugged the hole in is heart, and that he wanted me to know how much talking to me helped……and, to tell me that he was there every Saturday afternoon before church.
I know I will never forget the gift Mike gave me. When we are feeling bad about our own lives, its time to stop and be of service to someone else. It is in our giving that our most insight comes, and it is in the listening to others that we are able to see and heal parts of ourselves.