I have been getting my notes together to write up several posts as promised in my last article. However, before I write those posts I need to write a small vignette that I experienced a week ago. My husband and I are Christian music fans and we had tickets to attend a concert in Jacksonville.
There were three acts. The opener was Trevor Morgan, a new voice on the Christian music scene and very talented. He was followed by the band 10th Avenue North which has been playing the Christian scene for several years now and have become very popular. To round out the evening in top billing place was a great band called Third Day who we had previously seen at Disney’s Night of Joy. This band has been playing together for about twenty years and I really like them. Their lead singer has a most unusual voice.
As we settled into our seats, I was sitting to the right of Richard, we were joined on Richard’s left by a young mother and her son. I guess the boy was about ten years old and it became fairly obvious that he was very excited to be at the concert. After a short conversation, we discovered that he was a die-hard Third Day fan and he could barely wait for them to come on stage.
The concert began and we all thoroughly enjoyed Trevor Morgan. I think we will be hearing a lot more of him in the future. Tenth Avenue North gave us a great performance and took us up to the interval. Richard went off to grab us some water, and the mother and son also left the auditorium. When they came back the boy was happily munching on a giant pretzel. His mother said he needed “replenishing before Third Day appears”.
After a few moments, she opened a bag and pulled out a couple of CD’s. With a certain air of wishful expectation, the boy asked her what she had bought and I heard her tell him that she had really liked Trevor Morgan and wanted to support him so had decided to buy his CD. She then went on to say she had really enjoyed Tenth Avenue North and didn’t have any of their music at home and wanted to get their CD too. I saw the boy’s expression drop somewhat at that piece of news, but then his Mom said, “but then I changed my mind and got the Third Day CD.”
It had been a while since I saw someone’s face light up in such a way. The boy gasped, his eyes opened wide, and this great big grin spread all over his face. He put his pretzel down and held both hands out for the CD. Smiling happily the mom handed it over and ecstatically the boy took hold of it and drew it in towards his chest. He sat there for a few moments without saying a word. He clasped the CD to his heart, his eyes were closed and a beatific smile spread from ear to ear. He was totally “in love” in that moment.
After a while, he opened his eyes and slowly began to examine the CD. It was as though he was holding a precious jewel. He lovingly stroked the front cover and I fully expected him to start drooling any minute. He carefully turned the CD over and I assume he was reading the song titles. At this point the mom said that she would put it back in the bag until they got home and she put her hand out to take it. But the boy clutched it, kissed it, and put it back to his heart, closing his eyes once again in sheer sublime happiness.
I was so in awe of this whole little scene that played out right there beside us, and just very impressed that this young man was so passionate about a Christian band. I was also grateful that he had a very loving and supportive mother. She gently explained that if he wanted to finish his pretzel he would need to let go of the CD and that it would be safer back in the bag. I also heard her say that he could play it as soon as they got into the car for the ride home. He reluctantly let go after a couple more kisses!!
Well he then had his heart’s desire fulfilled when Third Day took the stage and played practically non-stop for almost two hours. It was truly a remarkable performance and the boy stood in his seat for the entire time, eyes sparkling and singing along with the songs that he recognized. What a great evening we all had and I know I will remember that boy’s face forever.
Today we celebrated yet another funeral in my parish. I use the word celebrate because in the Catholic faith we chose to say a Mass of the Resurrection in celebration of the deceased being resurrected into new life with Christ.
I am a member of the Ministry of Consolation and so I find myself attending more funerals than the average person. As part of our ministry we prepare the church for viewing services and vigils which usually take place the day before the funeral Mass, and then for the Mass itself. We are on hand to greet family and friends of the deceased as they come to the services and to be of any assistance to them or the priest.
As I stood in the church narthex this morning greeting everyone, I noticed a mother and her son come in to join those already present. The young man carried himself with great care and dignity. He wore a uniform of sorts, some kind of cadet perhaps. His posture was perfect, and even though he walked with a slight limp, he carried himself “tall”. I found out later his name was Teddy.
In all the time they were in the narthex before Mass started he stood quietly by his mother’s side. Every once in a while they would look at each other and smile. I could not help but notice that it was more than just a smile. It was a communication. In that one act they seemed to speak volumes to each other.
Close by them stood another couple with a small girl of about three years old in a stroller. Teddy noticed the girl and stood staring at her as though mesmerized. After some moments, his mother touched him gently on the arm and he looked at her with a huge smile. He then turned his attention back to the girl for a few more moments before turning once more, the smile still upon his face, to gaze intently, lovingly into his mother’s eyes. Again I had the feeling of a long, silent communication between them.
It was time for Mass. We discreetly directed everyone into the church and Mass began. The ritual was beautiful, the songs and readings perfectly chosen for the occasion. Then came the moment for Communion and once again Teddy and his mother took front and center stage of my attention.
I had already received Communion and had just returned to my seat to pray when I looked up to see them returning down the aisle. As before, I noticed how tall and straight Teddy walked. His mother walked beside him and, with one hand resting lightly in the center of his back, seemed to gently guide him. But more than guiding, it appeared to be a sign of reassurance.
It seemed to me that Teddy was totally focused in the moment. He had just received Communion and his hands were folded in front of him in a gesture of quiet reverence. Yet as they walked together I noticed that with a slight movement of his head he seemed to keep his mother in his peripheral vision.
Once back in their pew, they knelt side by side. It looked as though it was difficult for Teddy to kneel, perhaps something to do with that limp. Then he slightly turned his head to his mother and waited. I don’t know how I knew he was waiting, nor did I know what he was waiting for. As I watched, his mother leaned in to him and brought her lips to his cheek in close proximity to his ear.
As if on cue, Teddy inclined his head just fractionally in her direction and she began to speak to him. In that moment I thought that perhaps she was saying some prayers for him, or perhaps suggesting some prayers that he might like to say. No matter what, the moment was precious, just utterly precious, and I felt humbled to have been part of a very intimate act between them.
What made this Mother’s and son’s love so precious and special? Teddy is a Downs Syndrome child. He is now twenty six years old. The unconditional love that flowed so freely between them was palpable. I felt privileged to see the warm compassion that this mother showed her special child. As I was allowed into their space and allowed to share their beautiful relationship,I felt as though I been given a priceless gift.