Excerpt from Looking Forward: More Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist. Now available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other favorite bookstores.
In 2016 we moved Mom and Dad from the apartment in Tacoma to an assisted living place in the artsy little town of La Conner, about twenty minutes away from Scott and me. It had become clear that Mom was evolving into Dad’s caretaker – actually, maybe she had been his caretaker for years and we just hadn’t realized. We recognized that both Mom and Dad could use some support in this new, and last, adventure in their lives on this planet.
A couple weeks after Mom and Dad moved to La Conner, I had the great good privilege to return to the local Unitarian Universalist church as their guest speaker. Oh, but I love that little congregation!
My husband and I brought Mom and Dad with us this time – we wanted them to meet their new neighbors at the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – I knew they’d be made to feel welcome and at home. And sure enough! – as soon as we entered the doors to the hall we were met by friendly hand-shaking people and surrounded by cheery laughter and smiles. In fact, one of the members was the widow of one of Dad’s old mountaineering friends and they immediately got in conversation about old times and mutual friends.
This was no hushed, sanctimonious, dignified fellowship. There was no one standing at the doors trying to usher people to seats, or bid them be quiet. There was no one trying to maintain any kind of decorum. Everywhere was laughter and old friends greeting each other, and new friends meeting for the first time, and love expressed. Everywhere was joy.
Mom and Dad sat in the front row of the church with Scott and me. There was a big smile on Mom’s face as she looked around the hall. In the front of the auditorium there are three beautiful, quilted panels of tapestry, depicting a scene in the Cascade Mountains – and I could see Mom’s eyes resting on the mountain scene, and appreciating its beauty. “My memorial service could be here,” she said. I smiled and told her that wasn’t something we needed to think about for a long time.
Dad, meantime, was perusing the agenda for the service and saw my name in it. He pointed to my name and asked me why my name was there. “Because I am a big deal,” I told him, grinning. He grinned, too, and nodded his head in acceptance – like, of course I am a big deal.
About ten minutes after the service was supposed to begin, the celebrant finally saw an opportunity to close the doors to the room and chime the service into being. Songs were sung, announcements were made, there was the sharing of griefs and joys – and laughter throughout. Attending a Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service is like being at a comedy club. I always feel at home there.
By the time it was my turn to speak, any nervousness I might have felt had disappeared in the laughter.
“The Healing Power of Love” was the subject of my talk. I talked a bit about my upbringing – raised by a non-religious father and a Christian Science mother – and how my parents had raised me to be a really happy skeptic: My dad taught me to question political and religious dogma; my mom taught me to question everything I saw, heard, and felt with the material senses. “My parents might not have shared the same religious beliefs, but they shared the same values,” I observed, “and they taught my brothers and me to keep an open mind, to not be hasty to judge others, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to look for the good in people.” My UU friends nodded their heads at this – open mindedness and looking for the good in others is probably one of the cornerstones of the Unitarian Universalist church. Now and then I would bring my mom (who was sitting in the front row with my dad) into my talk – at those times I felt like George Burns feeding lines to Gracie Allen. Mom could have been a stand-up comedian.
I explained that I don’t speak for any other Christian Scientists when I speak about Christian Science – I’m only speaking for myself and my own experiences with this way of life.
I talked about how “God” is defined in the Christian Science church and gave the seven synonyms the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives for God: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. Lately I’ve been practicing substituting the word “Love” for “God” in my favorite Bible verses, and I shared some of those verses with the UU congregation: “Fear not, for Love is with thee… Be still, and know that God is Love… All things work together for good to those who love…” and here the congregation filled in the blank with me, “Love.”
I’ve come to a place in my life, I told the congregants, that if something doesn’t come from love or lead to love, I don’t want to waste my time with it. And they nodded their heads in agreement. I love these people.
Then I shared a healing I had experienced by drawing my thoughts close to Love: When I was in labor with my second son, I was told I would need to be given a cesarean – my son was in distress. As I was being wheeled down to the operating room, I asked my mom to call a Christian Science practitioner for prayerful support. When I got to the OR they hooked me up to a machine to monitor the baby. I prayed – and in Christian Science prayer doesn’t mean to plead with some anthropomorphic god to come down from the clouds and help us – praying, for me, just means to draw my thoughts close to the presence and power of Love.
I could feel the love from the doctors and nurses – I knew they wanted to help my baby and me. I knew that everything was unfolding as it should – under the direction of Mind. I found a place of peace. And suddenly the medical staff was looking at the monitor, looking at me, looking back at the monitor – and then they were all yelling, “Push! Push!” and my baby was born the old-fashioned way. One of the nurses was crying – she said she’d never been able to witness a vaginal birth before, and it was so beautiful. When I asked the midwife what had happened to allow my baby to be born naturally, she said, “We don’t know.” And when I asked my mom what the practitioner had told her when she called her, Mom said the practitioner had said, “Life loves that baby!”
It tells you something about the UU congregants that I felt completely comfortable sharing that healing with them. I knew they would understand the feeling of love that lay behind it. (After the service one of the congregants whose father was in the hospital thanked me and told me how helpful my thoughts had been to her – that meant so much to me.)
Maybe the thing I enjoy most about the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is that they let me have fun with them. They know how to laugh. They are natural Humoristians.
And they know how to love.
It brought me such joy to have Mom and Dad with me at that service.