He’s never done me any good, as far as I can tell, nor any harm. I hope He’s as ambivalent about me. We’re at Halloween mass and the children have come as animals from the ark. Two giraffes are fidgeting in their seats beside me; bumblebees buzz in the pew ahead. Mom at my side only trembles, except that on cue she wants to be helped into kneeling and standing, as if the world depended on her posture. She knows those moments in the service better than her son beside her in his believer costume. That’s me, lapsed lazarus, drowned in the flood. As I watch the smiling animals proceeding down the aisle on all fours two by two, it occurs to me that those who want faith can’t have it, and those who have it never give it a thought. Mom’s had a stroke and doesn’t speak and doesn’t walk alone and so depends on me for worship. She doesn’t know I bring her here to sing because nothing else works. I see her sway when the hymns begin and catch a glimpse of something of that spark of the animal divine. Me she recognizes, I think, but not her church and not the people who know her here, and what she makes of the zoo in the pews I can only imagine, but the organ chords might as well be her own heart humming they are so familiar. And the chords in turn call out the words. And the words shape her tongue and lips and open her throat. “He daily spreads a bounteous feast and at His table dine,” somebody sings, “The whole creation, man and beast,” Mom puts her hand on my forearm and I help her stand, “And He’s a Friend of mine.”

Copyright © November 03, 2008 David Hodges

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