My wife and I met more than 16 years ago at a social function at a church that neither of us attended regularly. Through a long list of twists and turns, especially after we first met, we wound up happily married. At a 10k race on July 4th, 2002 while waiting for my wife to finish the race, I saw a father and daughter cross the finish line holding hands (holy cow, I just realized that I’ve been running for more than ten years, where does the time go?). Up until that moment, my wife and I had planned on not having kids, that we’d work and travel instead – and retire early. When I saw that man and his daughter finish the race, my whole perception changed. After my wife finished and had a minute to cool down, I told her what I’d seen and that I might be changing my attitude about kids. My wife said smiled and said she was thinking along the same lines. Man, that was an awesome day. My wife was pregnant less than four months later. Nine months after, as I lay next to my sleeping two-week old daughter, face to face, close enough that I could feel her breath on my face, I reached the realization that I’d made her (at least 50% anyway). It was truly a beautiful moment and it changed my life. I had the same moment after my wife had our second daughter.
Yesterday we completed something of a circle. We went back to that church as a family, to volunteer. The priest, before lunch, walked around the entire room and anointed everyone’s forehead with oil and said a small prayer for healing for each of us individually. His path around the room brought him to me first and as he gently rubbed the oil into my forehead and said the prayer, I could feel the relief leave his thumb and spread down from my forehead and cascade all the way to my feet – it was fantastic, but not unexpected. One way or another, I’m a believer, even if I have an unorthodox way of celebrating it and generally I don’t like the idea of bleating on about it as a first year music student would fumble over his first few notes on his new trumpet. It’s what happened next that compelled me to write about this. The priest made his way next, to my oldest daughter. I watched him go through the same process and say the same prayer for her. I watched her expression after he’d moved to my younger daughter… She looked me right in the eyes from across the table and, with a puzzled smile, ever so quietly mouthed the words: “That felt good”.
She felt it too.
Afterwards, we volunteers gathered in the kitchen and served lunch. My daughter manned the plastic ware wrapped in a napkin that we’d rolled earlier. My wife, at the front of the chain with my youngest on the trays, while I was at the end of the line on the fruit, between the salad lady and the kid that handed out the cake… As the line rolled past the serving window, instructions were given to the front of the line when a child’s tray was needed. I’d nudge the cake boy and point to the biggest piece of cake as the tray came to me in the line and with a big smile on his face, he’d plop a huge piece of cake on the tray while I handed it to the man who served and he’d turn to my daughter so she could place the plastic ware in its place on the tray. I was actually sad that it was over when the last person passed through the line.
Two days before Christmas and I got a better gift than I could have even thought to ask for.
On top of all that, I actually experienced a miracle! My phone didn’t ring once, from the start of the service and through lunch, a period of about two hours. I can’t remember such a peaceful Friday in the last five years.
I snapped this picture in the serving line: