repository for the occasional perambulatory rumination

i go to church that one night of the year because i love the feeling that envelopes me when we close with “silent night” by candlelight. “silent night” is such a loaded song for me. it was daddy’s favorite christmas carol – and as a rule, daddy didn’t like anything about christmas – which was understandable, given that his family are bad to die right at christmas. when daddy (keeping the family tradition alive) was buried on december 5, 2000 (seems like yesterday), we asked everyone in attendance to join us in singing “silent night” as we exited the church after celebrating his life. “silent night” – especially when sung with lights dimmed and 400 or so people holding lit candles – takes me to a thin place where it’s just me and daddy.

but last night. oh, last night . . .

we picked mother up and got to the church only to be greeted by an usher who told us that while he’d love to offer us a candle, we’d have to settle for a hug because they had run out of candles. and when we (disappointedly) turned to go find a seat, he tapped us on the shoulder, pointed behind him, and said we’d have to go upstairs to the balcony because there were no more seats downstairs.

we trudged up the stairs only to be greeted at the top of the stairs by a female usher who pointed mother to a space for one and encouraged hubbie and me to go back downstairs and stand in the back because surely seats would open up when the children finished singing.

i wanted to leave then and there, mind you, but it means a lot to mother to have at least 2 of her chiclets with her at the christmas eve service, so i took a deep inhale, straightened my back, and began to look around. i’m not the only one who enjoys attending this one service each year: it’s always a full house with the ushers trolling the floor asking people to scoot down to make room for others, figuring that people can do with less than 2 feet of personal space for this one hour.

but last night’s usher didn’t think of that until i headed over to the very last pew in the very back of the balcony where there sat only 2 people and their teensy baby. i kinda’ motioned for them to move down and give these 3 people some room – which they did willingly. (people are like that: cashiers tell them that they’ll help the next person in line, and they let the person who’s been waiting and waiting and waiting go ahead of them. ushers ask them to scoot down and make room, and they shift to make room while maintaining a personal comfort zone.)

we plopped down on the very back row in the church, an aisle separating us from the last tiered row that was a mere 2 feet higher than our seats. translation: we could see nothing. absolutely nothing.

let’s review: no candles, no seats, no songbook – ah, but we did have a program so we could follow along with what everybody else was enjoying, although they turned off the lights behind us so it was too dark to read.

then it was time for communion – which is rather like a grand march as everybody parades in orderly fashion down to the front of the church via the center aisle, then back to their seats via the side aisles, giving everybody a chance to see what everybody’s wearing, who came with who, and greet people they only see this one time a year.

but not last night. no. last night was about expediency. people moving. getting folks in and out as expeditiously as possible. so they set up 5 “stations” around the church, all but 1 staffed with choir members and volunteers from the audience. one of each (a choir member and a plain clothes volunteer) presented themselves in the balcony, one bearing drink, the other bearing wafers. winded from the long climb up, they stopped at the very top of the steps and huddled-up with the usher to figure out a plan of execution, eventually deciding the best idea was for the choir member and plain clothes volunteer to station themselves against the wall in the center of the back row and have each row in the balcony (and i really do love this part) come up one aisle, accept communion, exit down the stairs, cross through the lobby, come back up the stairs on the other side, and return to their seats. (and no, they did not offer balcony sitters a wafer for the road and a to-go cup of juice.)

finally it was time for the grand culmination: silent night by candlelight.

only we had no candles.

the choir stood, the organist played a few chords of introduction, and it began: ushers headed for the front row, lit the candle of the person on each end of the bench, who then turned to the person next to them and lit their candle, and so on down the row.

but there we stood. in the very back of the balcony. candleless.

i could not take it any more. i would not take it any more. i headed down the darkened steps, and lo and behold there, in the huge candle basket, were about 6 candles. i helped myself to all of them, and made my way back up the darkened stairs, handing one candle to hubbie, one to mother, keeping one for myself, and offering the others to fellow candleless folks. the usher trotted right over and lit hubbie’s candle, as he was on the end of the aisle. she then presented herself in front of me (remember there was a spacious aisle between us and the rest of the church), and started to light mine.

nothing doing.

we may have been separated like lepers, but we were going to light each other’s candle, by golly. and we did. then, using our programs as protection from dripping wax, we stood quietly and joined in singing the last 2 verses of “silent night” by candlelight.

as i exited the church (dropping my candle off in the basket for the next round), it occurred to me that once again i had expected others to provide me with the feeling of deep satisfaction and stillness i crave. when that didn’t happen, i found my own light, reminding me once again that i and i alone am responsible for my finding my own contentment. i and i alone am responsible for reclaiming my power to be still and enter that special thin place.

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4 Responses to “the power to be still”

  1. quiltdivajulie on December 25th, 2008 2:30 pm

    Absolutely marvelous post ~ I too have that thin, wonderful spot on Christmas Eve (my childhood church, my mother at one side and my husband on the other, our newborn son in my arms) with Silent Night by candlelight .

    . . . and the church I attended last night ran out of candles as well (except the ushers found more and trolled the aisles during the readings to distribute them)… and I stood with my younger son (27, his church) as tears slipped down my face as I watched the elderly silver haired woman standing in front of us (my mom has been gone 3 years but it feels like yesterday). . .

    Your final statement is SO profound and so true ~ I am constantly seeking and looking for approval, support, and fulfillment from others when I hold it within all along ~ thank you for the beautiful reminder!

    Blessings to you and yours…

  2. jeanne, herself on December 25th, 2008 3:30 pm

    thanks, julie. your understanding of what i’m really saying here (to bank off the delicious quote on your blog) rekindles my inner spirit. hope you’re having a most enjoyable day.

  3. Acey on December 27th, 2008 8:36 pm

    quite a parable you’ve spun out of your experience. I snickered over the Grand March. Yes.

  4. Mom on February 10th, 2009 11:44 pm


    You will never know what it meant to me to have you and Andy with me that night. More precious memories.(And I have a gajillion of them.)

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