The Back Row
By Alexandra Kuykendall
But there she sat, sad and weary and sighing, uncurling before me and needing my love. I had to do something, even if I wasn’t good at showing the love she needed.
from I Told the Mountain to Move by Patricia Raybon
My children determine where I sit in church. I was in my usual spot, the last pew, convenient for extracting screaming two-year olds. Surrounded by all the regular mommies ready to remove their own screamers at a moment’s notice, I noticed a young woman across the aisle. She was new to my small church’s chaos section of squirmers and shushers, but she sat apart without a squirmer of her own.
The previous Sunday our pastor shared a story about a young married man living in our community. He had taken his own life that week and our pastor was to perform the funeral. We prayed for the young widow and her pain. A week later when my pastor prayed again the visitor’s sob rang out. At that moment I knew our prayers were for her and my heart ached.
I’m not a free hugger. I don’t normally touch people I don’t know. And yet, I felt myself moving, stepping across the aisle, handing her some Kleenex, and putting my arms around her. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, if it would make her more uncomfortable, but my instinct forced my doubts aside. I could feel her relax a little; letting my shoulder muffle her sobs, she didn’t let go. I held on. Although I’m not a hugger, I am a crier. My tears started with her first sob and we cried together. I had no words, only a mother’s heart: the tenderness to feel someone else’s pain, to wipe tears and to hug. Those were things I practiced daily and could offer, even to a stranger.
My children determine where I sit in church, but they positioned me in more than one way that morning. They gave me the tools needed to open my heart, step beyond my comfort, and freely share a hug and tears.