Flowers for my Mother, on the Third Sunday in Advent (at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Earlier this morning, 5 AM, I was on the phone with my son, who is Los Angeles bound. It's a business trip—a chance to spend some time at the parent company of his media planning firm. It's also a chance for my son to see a city he's never been before—a few hours of not work for the hardworking son who has taken just a half day off in the past nine months of his first out-of-college, it's-for-real job.

In time, he set off in the dark for his adventure. I waited for a little more sun, then stepped outside into the crystal palace the world had overnight become to chop the ice away from the car. It's the third Sunday in Advent. I needed to be in church, near Christmas words and Christmas songs. I was married at Bryn Mawr. Our son was baptized there. My mother was beloved there and in her absence my father has become so engaged in the life of this community that I call him The Big Man on the BMPC Campus. He modestly shakes his head. He says, No. But I know. I see. I go to church there with him now, whenever I can. At Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church my father is equally vital and young. He's necessary, and happy.

Today my father (having gone to the early service) was long gone, on his way to see my brother, when I finally cleared the crystals and got on the road. The ice on the trees and electrical lines kept shattering as I drove—dazzlingly minor key crashes. By the time I opened the door to the sanctuary, the St. Cecelia Girl Choir, St. Andrew Boy Choir, Youth Chorale, and Sanctuary Choir were already bringing Christmas into Christmas. Soon the advent candles were lit, and now Reverend Agnes Norfleet, nearly one year into her job as the pastor of this church—into her bold, bright, life-giving tenure—was giving the kind of sermon that we remember for how it moved us and how it made us laugh as well (she tends to do this). After that the Reverend Nicole Duran webbed together the big and the small of now into an artful prayer, and then there were more songs, another prayer, the postlude. I stood to go.

At the door, Reverend Norfleet gave me one of her welcoming hugs and asked me if I had noticed the flowers. I had. They were full-headed, unusual, white, and many times throughout the service I had studied them, thought how rich and prepossessed they were, how perfectly graceful for Advent.

"They were given by your dad in honor of your mom," she said.

Just like my father, at Christmas.



6 comments:

Alice Elliott Dark said...

Beautiful, and full of music. I spent so much time at this church, keeping my grandmother company.

kate hopper said...

This is so lovely, Beth. All that love!

We're all going to my dad's church with him this Sunday, and I know it will mean the world to him.

Ann said...

This is a beautiful post. Simply beautiful.

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