As I sat alone today at the back of a small church, feelings of joy overcame sadness. The pews slowly filled with reverent parishioners, people scooched along the smooth wood whenever they heard a new hesitant question whispered. “Is anyone sitting here?” By 1:45 it was standing room only and latecomers overflowed into the foyer.
When the organ swelled with melody a stillness suffused the air, sinking our shoulders with softness and peace. The minister ascended to her place, her white robe floating as soft as an angel’s wing. She welcomed everyone, and looked straight at me in the last row. There was no way of knowing, until she spoke the words, that I was sitting in the exact spot Nicole preferred. The occasion today was Nicole’s funeral.
A brocade cushion lay next to me. I wondered if it was her cushion.At first I wanted to shrink away, but I touched it instead. Red with gold, piped edges, square, and those ties you recognize on kitchen chairs when the seat is tied to the back rungs. I heard the minister speaking words about how Nicole’s roots spread deep, growing into a sturdy courageous tree that inspired everyone with its grace and beauty. The pattern on the cushion is soft-edged leaves and tender young limbs; to my eyes every thread was utterly symbolic.
Before today’s service I felt certain that I had moved through the stages of grief. Unexpected ambushes of emotion aren’t so fierce or frequent nowadays. But there it was, next to me, Nicole’s cushion in Nicole’s place. My weeping heart overflowed, overwhelmed with emotion. In that brief moment I gave thanks for the magic of an unknowing blunder that warmed into a full special connection.
Logically, I may never again see a red and gold brocade cushion, but the beautifully spoken words are etched in my mind.