Heart explosion

Much of this weekend was spent in religious services, which also means that much of the weekend was spent with me tearing up from all the beauty.

On Saturday, I attended the bar mitzvah of the son of our friends. Let me start by saying that I love the Jewish faith. I happily immerse myself in the prayers, the songs, the cadence of the words. I adore the history, the rituals, the intellectual leanings and conversations. I admire that one practices certain holy days at home with family and others in community at the temple. At one point in my life, I studied, just a bit, toward conversion.

So in addition to the honor of being invited to share in this very special day with friends, I looked forward to the service itself.

Still, I arrived ten minutes late. Plus, my laryngitis turned into a chesty cough, so I slid, hopefully unobtrusively, into a seat in the last row on the side, away from everyone else.

From that position, I settled into watching the bar mitzvah boy lead the service. Clear and composed, he obviously prepared well for this day. The rabbi and cantor surrounded him with infectious joy, smiling throughout the service and, at times, almost lifting themselves off the floor. Their phrasing and tone was consistently positive and upbeat. Though I entered a bit grumpy and sat on the sidelines, I couldn’t help but be quickly drawn into their current of happiness.

The service itself focused on our interconnections, God’s loving kindness, gratitude for the simple things, making this world a better place, and all those other topics that slide right into my heart and make life feel warm and wonderful and full of possibilities and love.

Because the Hebrew words and the corresponding actions do not come automatically to me, I watched others for guidance throughout the service. What page are we on? Was it time to sit or stand, bow or close our eyes? Do we all sing or is it just the cantor for this part?

As I looked around for hints, I saw so much more. The husband and wife sitting in front of me, with their school-age son between them. Each of the three of them wore a yarmulke and prayer shawl, clearly reverent. They also clearly shared a strong bond of love. The family of the bar mitzvah, each one beaming so strongly I would not have been surprised to see light pour out of their faces. The woman across the aisle from me, heartily greeting everyone who came her way as if each were a long-lost friend. The husband near the front, who tenderly put his arm around his wife at various points in the service. The son who held his mother’s hand when she need to take a few steps, and her smiling response. The sisters who read from the bimah together, supporting each other with smiles and a few giggles, then, when they finished, putting their arms around each other. All these connections demonstrating deep love and joy brought tears to my eyes.

In the midst of this crazy love, I realized that I didn’t want this service to end, and suddenly worried that it might be coming to a close. Right then, the rabbi had us pause, take a deep breath, and hold onto the beauty, sacredness and awesomeness of the moment we just all experienced together. My heart expanded until it was about to explode and I could have screamed with joy (if my voice were back to normal).

I woke the next morning in some pain (unrelated to the bar mitzvah), but dragged myself and a thermos of tea to Sunday Mass. I am almost always touched by the Mass and, after Communion, often moved to tears.

Again, I was late. I was thrilled to see that this Mass would be led by a priest who also spreads kindness, joy and acceptance. As I eased into the Mass, his infectious and joyful demeanor helped to move my focus from myself to the service itself, and I felt my own pain  dissipate.

Midway through, I remembered yesterday’s advice of the rabbi. Inhaling deeply, I took in the awesomeness of the moment. Ahead of me and across the aisle to my left sat, side by side, three teeny grey-haired ladies wrapped in wool coats and hats and the comfort of a long friendship. Just then, an older man entered alone and sat a few rows ahead of me, shoulders slumped but relieved to be here. Directly in front of me, a mother and teenage daughter periodically leaned toward each other, touching shoulders as they gave the usual Mass responses. The toddler directly across the aisle sat so quietly and attentively on his father’s knee; I admired the peace between them. The pianist wore sunglasses that made me think of Ray Charles and I giggled inside. With each sight, my heart expanded. When my eyes fell upon families who have children the same ages as mine, I realized how much they have helped me to grow and to feel a part of this parish, and my heart expanded yet again.

Both days, it felt as if God’s love was running through all of these connections, then through me, eventually pouring out through the tears that landed on the lens of my eyeglasses.

It doesn’t stop there. I feel this connection with you, when you read this or write or pray for me or even do something kind for someone else. It expands my heart to exploding. I overflow with tears, and my smile could break out of my face. Thank you for all that you do to make my life, and this world, a better place to be.


22 thoughts on “Heart explosion

  1. Marie – what a coincidence that Saturday was “Make a Difference Day” at our catholic churches in Arkansas (all 4 of them) and look at that – you made a difference.

  2. I love this. Today at church I sat in a somewhat boring sunday school session but was entranced by two older women in front of me. The one carefully helped the other get her coat off her shoulders and tucked around her back to keep her warm. She was so tender, gentle and subtle, and complimented her on her coat. I not only had the hopeful vision of myself and some dear friend doing that for me in the future, but felt that God was at work in that room. Now I think he was working through you to connect us through His works in the people around each of us today. Hugs to you sweet friend.

  3. I’m so glad your heart is exploding with love and joy and glad to add in my own little way to the love that is all around you. Our daughter had her first communion this year and we went to Mass regularly in the lead-up to the sacrament. Since then we’ve been a bit slack, busy etc. We went to Mass on Sunday as it was the final school service for the year. I always feel so grateful sitting in church, our beautiful kids beside us, even if our son (3) said about 2/3 of the way through ‘It’s boring, I hate this place!’ (hate being a word he has picked up in kindy). I well remember holding back tears, sitting in church watching the happy families when we thought we might never have children. Now I get this peaceful sense of, ‘all in God’s time and plan’. Hugs to you.

    • Ms YinYang – I always love to hear from you, whether it is a blog post from your blog or a comment. And I totally get where you are coming from. I cannot seem to get my own children to connect with or see the beauty in the Mass. Sigh. But we all find our way, in our own way, and one thing I am learning, quite late but still….that maybe my role is to just support whatever path someone else is on. Even if the someone else is my child! Thanks for bringing me insights and sharing the joy of the ride. Oh and congrats on the first communion, too! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. I just forwarded it to the rabbi and cantor as I thought they’d like it too.

    I saw you in the back and I wish I’d been able to catch you before you left, but know you needed to go. You were seated vaguely behind my family, who were also trying to follow the service (I’d give them a few pep talks “you really can’t do anything wrong, except cross yourself or genuflect…”).

    You captured the spirit of what we felt going through the bar mitzvah. Our clergy is awesome, the experience was an amazing one for Daniel and our family, and we had just such a great time celebrating and visiting and trying to soak it all in. So glad you could be part of it with us.


  5. Dear Marie,
    As always your words are full of kindness, warmth, good energy, love… and so many more things. Thank YOU for sharing your thoughts with us and for being part of out lives. Thank you for seeing all those things you see and for taking the time to write about them. Much love to you, Victoria.

  6. Hey Marie, I have been reading this since day one so thought it was finally time to participate. You are the most inspirational person I have ever met. I have come to know you and your family over the past 10 years and feel such a special bond with all of you. Part of that may come from my maturity level matching your childrens, you have always greeted me/us with a smile hug and kiss. We are blessed as a family to have you in our lives and God brought us together to love and support one another. I think about the tandem bike and cry often, the fact that it brought so much peace to you and your family is something i will cherish always. You are a great person and we love you. Thanks for always keeping it real

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