Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Table

Ho, everyone who thirsts,come.
You who have no money,come.
Come buy wine and milk
without money, without price.

Eat what is good.
Delight yourselves in rich foods.

On this mountain
He will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food
a feast of well-aged wines.

Come to the Table
Come for the Bread and the Wine
Come for His Body and Blood.

I rose from my seat
unable to resist His invitation
and went

on a sea of aloneness.

THIS is where I will miss Mother the most.
She got me.
She knew this journey, the hunger and thirst to know God, to love Christ and His Church.

It is so obvious to me today that I am alone now. In this, I am alone.

Certainly in my family. It could have been no clearer, no more obvious to me than it was yesterday, when I - alone - grabbed my husband's hand and pulled him with me to the Table.

I, alone, out of five rows of family, went to the Table.

THIS is where the hole is now - I had no friend like my Mother who knew the depth and breath of this journey to know God, to know the Indwelling Christ, and to know and love the Church.

For today, I feel so alone on this vast sea.

Like Pi, I sit in a small boat on this huge sea of aloneness, and there is a tiger in the boat staring at me.

She got me. Mother got ME. And she and I could plumb the depths of the sea together.

For that I am grateful; for that I grieve.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


In the wee hours Friday morning, I lay on the little bed in my mother’s hospital room, trying to sleep, but just thinking as thoughts flew by. One of those thoughts whispered to me, “…wind beneath my wings…”

My mother was the wind beneath my wings. So often I would feel a crash landing coming, and she would swoop down beneath me and up, up we’d go, flying higher than eagles. She was certainly my hero. So I played and sang the song for her.

But this morning, I’ve looked at the lyrics and thought about her, back in the shadows most of her life. She was a quiet woman, unassuming.  And she played her roles well: daughter, wife, mother, pastor’s wife.  This song could be sung by so many of us because truly she was in our shadow:

It must have been cold there in my shadow
To never have sunlight on your face 
You've been content to let me shine 
You always walked a step behind 

I was the one with all the glory 
While you were the one with all the strength 
Only a face without a name 
I never once heard you complain 

Did you ever know that you're my hero 
And everything I'd like to be 
I can fly higher than an eagle 
But you are the wind beneath my wings 

It might have appeared to go unnoticed 
But I've got it all here in my heart 
I want you to know I know the truth
I would be nothing without you

Did you ever know that you're my hero 
And everything I'd like to be
I can fly higher than an eagle
But you are the wind beneath my wings
You are the wind beneath my wings 

Oh, the wind beneath my wings
You, you are the wind beneath my wings
Fly, fly, fly away, you let me fly so high
You are the wind beneath my wings
Fly, fly, so high against the sky
So high I almost touch the sky
Thank you, thank you
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

But you know what was so fun for me, her daughter? It was watching her come out of the shadows and stand in her own light.  That was pure joy!

These are the most poignant lines for me as I read the words:“Only a face without a nameI never once heard you complain.”Mother and I talked often about how women of her generation, and many in my generation, lived lives of “faces without names”. We talked about how women have been identified in relationship to everyone else in their lives: always someone’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, or, in her case, the pastor’s wife. And those are precious identifiers, no complaints. But it was such a kick watching her step out of the shadows over the last few years and discover her own face.

She never really liked the name “Mildred”.  When she moved down here, she corrected me when I introduced her as Mildred.  So very quickly she became “Millie” (or Milly, we never got that nailed down). And she loved hearing her name.  Who knew?  I think the first time I realized that was at the gym.  When we walked into the swimming pool area, everyone would begin shouting out, “Hi Ms. Millie!” One day on the way home in the car, she said, “Sheila, do you know how wonderful it feels to hear my name?”  Well, no, I hadn’t thought of that, but those of us closest to her didn’t called her by name.  We called her Mother, Momma, Mom…we didn’t call her Millie.  And the folks at the gym didn’t call her Mrs. Massey.  They called her by her name, and she noticed.

There were lots of other “coming out of the shadow” moments, too.  “My feet are too big, and I have ugly toes.” Then we began going to get pedicures every month, and those feet found their way into open-toed sandals.  And I used to tell her she had great yoga feet—wide open toes.  “Open toes, open mind.” Yes, her mind was very open.  I don’t think she even knew that about herself until she moved here. I certainly didn’t know just how open her mind was—how large her thoughts were, how big her heart was, how much could be included!

Then there was the day she stood in front of the mirror at Dillards, so close her nose nearly touched her reflection.  Much of her adult life, she had worn what was “respectable” and considered subdued enough to be worn as a “pastor’s wife”. But this day, she stood in front of that mirror in a bronze leather jacket studded with brads, a huge gold bangle bracelet on her arm, and huge gold earrings on her “too big ears”, and she sparkled! And she grinned at me…”I never thought I’d wear anything like this!” She DID love her bling.  That was another thing neither of us knew about her.

She wouldn’t wear her hair behind her ears because her ears were too big.  Her feet and toes were too big and ugly for sandals. Her hands were too large for big rings.  All that fell away as she came out of the shadows into her own Self.

For the first ten years she was here with us, I felt as if I was watching a flower bloom.
And probably most especially when we began going to church at St. Timothy’s.  

O my, she was “in heaven”. I don’t think there’s been a Sunday that we’ve haven’t left St. Timothy’s without tears in our eyes, and hearts overflowing with gratitude that we both found our home.  She loved the pipe organ.  She loved the music.  She loved the classical pieces. She loved the robes.  She loved the pageantry and ritual. She loved the Liturgy. She even began to love singing the Psalms.  At the beginning, she asked so many questions: “Why do they do this?”  “What does that mean?”  She especially loved getting to go to the alter for Eucharist.  She figured people would think she was silly when she decided she wanted to officially join the church a couple of years ago, at her age.  But the night that Bishop Andy Doyle laid his hands on her head as our community surrounded her, laying hands on her, as the Bishop prayed for her and welcomed her into the church—that was such a joyful blessing for her.

And she was amazed that the folks at St. Timothy loved her, HER, Ms. Millie.  St. Timothy’s was the first church she was a part of that didn’t know my Daddy and his “bigness”.  She never, ever minded being in his shadow, and would have never even considered that she lived most of her adult life in that space. But she very quickly noticed that the parishioners at St. Timothy’s didn’t know Daddy—and they still liked her.  They liked HER! Both of us were surprised that there was even a hole in heart that didn’t know people liked her for herself.  

That has been one of St. Timothy’s biggest gifts to both of us: the gift of our own Self-ness. It was/is the place where neither she nor I live in anyone’s shadow.

The photo of her above is a treasure for me.  It was taken at St. Timothy’s Easter Sunday morning by Susan Laver at Heartfelt Photography.   It was a quickie shot, one of those spur of the moment things.  Marshall, Sandy, and Jim had come to church with us, and Susan was there with her ever-ready camera snapping pictures of her grandkids (again!), and I asked her to come take a photo of us.  She was so glad to say, “Yes”, and she got a couple of family shots that were really good, but THIS was her special gift to us.  She clipped this little part of Mother out of the group setting and made it a portrait of our precious mother.  Notice the wide open smile, the large dangly earrings, the hair swept back away from her beautiful face.  I personally love the fact that she didn’t even have her glasses to hide behind.  And notice the color—my goodness, all the color. This, THIS is my mother.  She was no longer walking in anyone’s shadow.  She had found the gift of her own face, her own “being-ness”. The world has met and loved Millie Massey.  And now, heaven gets the privilege.