Mass is always an interesting experience for me. I find my mind wanders to places it doesn't often go during the rest of the week. I think the internet, television, work, and yarn have a lot to do with the reason my brain is so distracted and otherwise employed during the other 6 days of the week.
But the quiet of the church and the fact that I can't easily supplant deep thoughts with shallow diversions means my mind wanders its way along roads that often lead to Thomas. And not just Thomas, but this life without him, and what that means and what it looks like now and what it'll look like 20 years from now.
It's not always a fun walk. But I think these moments of contemplation are an important part of the healing process that continues for the rest of a bereaved parent's life.
On Sunday, while absentmindedly scanning the congregation, I noticed that a reader I see all the time was sitting with an altar boy that I also often see. I'd never noticed the connection before, but seeing them side by side made mother-son relationship obvious. He was the image of his mother, in tall, strapping, teenage-boy form.
I couldn't take my eyes off him. I kept looking back from his mother to him, noticing how much they look alike. It's still astonishing to me that it's possible to make something that so clearly belongs to you that it actually has your face stamped upon it. Magical.
I was still watching him as he took to the altar in preparation for handing out Communion (he's now a Minister of Communion, having graduated from altar serving, I suppose).
I stared at him, thinking how incredibly proud his mother must be of this lovely young man - both because he came from her, and because he's obviously as committed as she is to participating in something that's an important part of her life. As I watched him, I imagined what it would be like if he were my son - if it was my son standing there on that altar, tall and handsome and demonstrating his commitment to his faith at a time in his life when it's probably really, really not cool to do so.
I stared. And I thought, "She must be staring in awe too, the mother that created this perfect boy version of herself. I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off him if he were mine." I looked over to where she was sitting, and saw she had her head bowed, her eyes either on her missal or closed in prayer.
And I realized that people who have living children don't need to stare at them in awe they way I imagine they must. They do sometimes, of course, but seeing her son on the altar isn't new for this mother. Seeing her son isn't new for this mother.
I have no idea what it's really like. Thinking that a mother wouldn't be able to take her eyes off her almost grown son for even a second proves this. What a sad thing to have had a child and to still not know what any of it is really like.
There are times, during Mass, when I want to pick up my things and walk out. It's not from anger anymore, but from a feeling of not belonging that sometimes overwhelms me. I'm watching the children of others grow before my eyes. Little boys now tower over their mothers. Little girls now wear women's clothing. It's a strange feeling when all I've done is sit in those pews alone - with, perhaps, five little spirits hovering nearby.
Family and church are inextricably linked in my brain, and when it can't escape into the internet it sometimes wills me to think that I don't belong where families are. And that makes me want to escape from places where families are.
But I stay. And I wait for my mind to take me to places that are sometimes hard to go because I have no choice but to let it.
I suppose my fractured little mind knows best. And anyway, I have the busyness of 6 other days to recover from the revelations of the 7th.