The tablecloths were spread out over several tables. White linen pulled tightly to each edge, the crisp folds still easily visible to anyone looking. A table covered in blueish-silver bags for people to take home with them as they eventually would trickle back out the door hours later. The screen was sitting where hopefully everyone could see and know the only thing to do was wait.
We’d spend Friday night going through the paces, joking about how things should go but expected that they were going to possibly make us scramble for a minute or two. After finally figuring out how to work the sound system, we nodded in agreement that things were the best they could be. So homeward bound to reflect on what to wear or who we might see probably occupied everyone’s thoughts.
I made sure to lay out my clothes a little early Sunday morning as I went about trying to get a few things around the house. My shoes polished a little brighter than normal. It wasn’t for the people who were there, but for the possibility of who might.
As I got out of my car and walked towards the door, you could hear the laughter of people as they were telling the band where they needed to set up. The locations of power and hopefully enough space had been set aside. The classic drums, guitar, bass and keyboard to accompany the 5 women singing.
Hugs are exchanged, little children as running around hopefully wearing themselves out a tiny bit before they are going to be sitting. The echoes of their laughter filling a hall where their very presence is going to be appreciated by most and celebrated by all.
I couldn’t help sneaking down the hallway to check out the food that was laid out throughout the room. Cakes and cookies, sandwiches and platters of various fruit and cheese. A veritable bounty that was more than enough to feed everyone.
Sounds like a pretty good party? The kind being thrown elsewhere that day in hundreds of locations around the globe. Only this was a different kind of celebration, one where the kids were going to be memories and pictures flashed with dates on that screen. For a few moments those laughing children are going to be a a painful reminder of why we gathered that day. Later a grateful feeling that those signs of life are still present around us.
As the band hit that last chord and everyone filed out of the church, taking one of those bags that contained a bulb for a flower, it was quiet. Some of the faces were still able to smile and a few others needed to avert their eyes because they didn’t know how to deal with the emotions at that moment.
For some it might have been the only time someone heard their child’s name. Saw a picture of that same child frozen in time from before.
When it was my turn to stand in front of the crowd and say even a few words about my daughter, I froze. Just being there was sometimes difficult as I helped people towards the front of the sanctuary so that they could speak for the silent. That part was easy, it made it worth everything else.
I could have spoken. I was being encouraged to speak, but my normal ability to be strong falters at these moments. The same weakness shared by every single person present.
Of those people, there are any number that would have stood next to me for as long as it took for me to utter a name, Abigail. Light that candle and grab my arm. I can think of one or two who would have been just as happy to say her name for me if I suddenly fell mute.
It’s easy to help people at times like that. It can also be painful to watch as you know the grief they are experiencing.
I’ve come a great distance to get to where I am today. I just know I’ll need to ask for a little more help finding my voice next time.
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