The sun rose anyway. It was Sunday morning. It was the day after we had lowered Aaron’s casket into the cold, dark dampness of the earth.
Desperate to escape the sudden bizarre and overpowering urge to attend Aaron’s church, I stomped from room to room while shouting at the empty walls.
“Stupid fool!” I yelled in frustration as warring thoughts continued their barroom brawl.
“Go to church.”
“They love you.”
“They loved Aaron.”
Exhausted by the emotional battle, I flung myself across the bed while wailing for my beloved.
“What is wrong with me?” I howled at the empty room. “After years of doing other stuff on Sundays, now I cannot think of anything to do except go to church.”
No answer came forth to explain this unreasonable tug-of-war by unwanted thoughts. Looking around the room, the early-morning sun beamed through the same window that had warmed Aaron’s body. The off-white walls looked unchanged. Aaron’s size 13 slippers still sat at the end of the bed, as though waiting for him to slip his feet into them. The truth hit home. Aaron was gone. Standing in front of the closet filled with his clothes, I buried my nose into one of his shirts for a final smell of his cologne before pulling out my outfit. Despite the scalding tears that burned salty tracks down my cheeks, the sky looked like a painter’s masterpiece. Framed by the bedroom window, fingerlike tendrils of ginger reds and carroty orange were spread across the ocean-blue palette of the sky.
The tree branches swayed in joint concert with the jamboree sounds of birds as though to say hello as I exited the car in front of the church. Adding insult to injury, the budding lilac bushes advertised new beginnings as they shook off their perfume with every gentle breeze. Spring was in the throes of rebirth. Conversely, the echoing click-click-click of my heels on the concrete, minus the thump-thump-thump of Aaron’s size 13 shoes, proclaimed death’s victory. Courage drained out of me like a sieve with each step. My feet froze on the third step of the church entry.
Run, quick, before they see you, burst to the forefront of my mind.
Aaron had fulfilled his job.
The package was delivered.
The Living Water was waiting
at the well for my arrival.
Encapsulated in a vacuum of grief like a moth in a cocoon, Sunday morning worship faded into the next Sunday. Weeks turned into months. Encouraged by the members, I had added Friday night to my unusual things to do in a church.
Then my appointed time to be truly alive arrived.
It was a Friday night service.
Praise and worship had finished. Bible study started when Pastor Lucias Elwood stood up. He opened his King James Version of the Bible to the first chapter of the book of Genesis and read starting with verse 26.
'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'
Bzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzz.
His words had zoomed past my ears like annoying flies. The desire to swat at them rose up in my crushed spirit. The pastor’s voice droned on with verse 27.
'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.'
The ash-gray tombstone etched with Aaron’s name blocked any ability to hear about a God of love better than any man-made, commercial earplugs. The urge to scream at the pastor, “Say something that makes sense!” rose up in my throat like bitter bile. The suffocating agony of being a left-behind wife kept me seated, silent, and lost.
Despite the hearing of numerous sermons over several months, I yet did not believe there was a God. Mere words quoted from ancient texts had not overcome the loss of my beloved husband, nor had they penetrated the fortified wall of self-protection that years of factual, soul-shattering, childhood abuse by a professing Christian mother had built.
Pastor Elwood unexpectedly stepped down out of the pulpit. He picked up a chair and walked over and sat down directly in front of me on the front pew.
“Remember when as a child you played in the dirt and made mud pie figures,” he said staring straight into my eyes.
“I believe God played in the mud when He created us,” he said.
Leaning over sideways, Pastor Elwood pretended to scoop up a handful of mud from the floor as though imitating the Scriptures that he had quoted. Riveted to his every move, I watched as he patted his hands together as though forming the figure of Adam.
He brought his cupped hands toward his mouth. I leaned forward.
The pastor blew his breath into the imaginary mud figure.
An unseen force thrust me backward against the pew like a limp rag doll that a child had thrown down. Eyes bucked, mouth gaped open in stunned surprise, I sat back up and screeched, “God is real! I know God exists!”
It was 7:30 p.m.
“What’s wrong with you?” Mother Fitzgerald had angrily fussed with her hand clutched to her chest.
“Did you know that God is real?” I exclaimed to a woman who had been brought up in church for most of her eighty years.
Mother Fitzgerald later admitted that she thought I had suffered an emotional breakdown due to my husband’s death. I couldn’t blame her.
Up to that point, any fact presented to me as a truth was accepted only on a prove-it basis. All information that was contrary to my opinion was met with cynicism until it underwent the severest test as to its originality, groundwork, and proof of reliability. Up until I met Aaron, nothing and no one could be trusted. As far as I was concerned, life had proven that laws, regulations, and legal rights all seemed vulnerable to an individual’s whim and thus were susceptible to every figment of man’s imagination. And the Bible was just another man-made concoction.
[Following Jesus as Lord and Savior is not left to chance or the will of man.
—John 6:44–45; 65]
For the first time in my life, I had an identity—creation by God—and also a Father, albeit spiritual. But unknown to me, I also had an immediate ancient Enemy who didn’t like godly babies.