Today is my mother’s birthday; she would be turning 97. Alas, we lost her 15 years ago to lung cancer, a full 20 years after she stopped smoking. It seemed only fitting that we were in Sherman today and were able to attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal church here. This was the church where my mother was a parishioner once she moved to Sherman in 1972, and the one we attended from the time we moved to Sherman in 1986 until we moved to LA in 1994.
I saw many old friends at church today. These are people who have known me since I was in college and are still going to St. Stephen’s all these years later. It always feels like old home week when I visit. I can tell I’m still “one of Helen’s youngest children” to them and my mother’s name comes up a lot. “Go talk to that woman over there,” one of the women said to me today. “She knew your mother back in Bonham.” (Bonham is my hometown, which is 25 miles to the east.)
This is one of the advantages of having a church community. These people are now in their 70’s and 80’s and they still recognize Ray and me and want to hear how our girls are doing. We remember them and their children and their now deceased husbands and wives and want to hear an update on children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. We are all connected by our faith and our church. It’s as if we’re one big extended family.
I believe that is one of the greatest aspects of any faith community. The longstanding connection that is possible there. Unlike a school community, there is no “aging out.” You can attend from birth to death or move in and out and still return to visit. Some of the same people – the faithful – will be there whether it’s 1972 or 2015 with a big smile and a welcoming hug.
I’m glad I could quietly celebrate my mother’s birthday today at church with some of her old friends. How lucky I am to still have people in my life who knew and loved my mother. That is a gift in itself.