Bliss, joy, happiness, comfort, healing, sighs of relief, deep belly laughter, tears of shared sorrow, and the ultimate level of gratitude for these shared sacred days. Many people get dressed each Sunday and make their way to a house of worship that meets their spiritual needs, and there, if they are really lucky, they find community. I was raised Unitarian, but I’ve never really been a church-goer. To me, the service was never as fulfilling as the community connectedness that would follow. Long ago, I chose to cut out the middle minister. There are still times when I may find solace in having that sacred place in which to connect. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, for example… I found myself numbly making the drive to our sanctuary, seeking comfort within a room of like minds and warm hearts. Minutes from an executive airport and an international airport, I will never forget the eerie vacancy of the skies that could be seen through horizon windows. I recall very little about what was spoken, but felt a sense of shared shock, fear, heartbreak, uncertainty, and dismay. I do recall my own words… for my sorrow was mingled with joy. On this terrible, horrible, tragic, no-good day, my Tribe sister was in Colorado giving birth to sweet Whimsy. To me, she was a symbol of hope in the darkest of times. In just three months she will be seventeen, and she couldn’t possibly shine more brightly… always our beacon of shining brilliance and great pride.
The last community trauma did not lead me to church, though many did gather there for comfort, for support, for counseling, to find someone – anyone who could help hold a shattered soul together until healing could someday be found. It was two years ago this week… I remember that I had been visiting a friend in North Florida that weekend, and for some reason that Saturday night, I felt restless and chose to drive home rather than to stay another night. I don’t know what was on my mind during that three hour drive, but if my thoughts were troubled or petty they would soon be completely annihilated… along with 49 sacred souls.
For more than a decade, a small group of committed friends within my circle have gathered for Second Sunday Supper. Each month we assemble in someone’s kitchen, and there we cook together and wine flows into glasses, while our hearts are filled and overflow with pure love and adoration for the grace and beauty of our togetherness. I believe that if there was no food present, we would still feel well-nourished at our parting.
Two years ago, we gathered in the home of dear friends who have since moved away. That morning we had all risen with the most tragic news, and though we had a commitment to brunch together, we had to ensure we could still gather – as one of our hosts was a member of the police department. In a different role, and gratefully never in harm’s way, he had not been called in, and we all felt it especially necessary to gather our hearts into one place, a group hug from which we would wish to never emerge. Upon arrival, words were difficult to share through throats swollen from primal screams and flowing tears. Reports were coming in from comrades… 20 confirmed dead… 23 confirmed dead… 30… 35… 42…. breathless and shattered… 49 monumental losses to our beloved community. Tears would dry and fall again. Together we waxed on about shared dreams of a world that celebrates the authentic beauty of every individual, where self-hatred and familial denial of one’s truth could only lead to such a violent atrocity in books of fiction, and the reality of an automatic rifle in the hands of a civilian was as far-fetched as Marvin the Martian’s ray gun, pointed at Bugs Bunny on the surface of Mars… only to be found in a world of cartoon fantasy. A convoy of refrigerated trucks would never be required, for the inadequacy of space in the county morgue.
Gratefully, most of our Second Sundays are free from such horror and sorrow. Music plays, friends gather, food is prepared, wine is poured, bloody marys are built, stories are shared, laughter is raised, and hearts are soothed and refilled with enough love and light to carry us through the next four weeks, until we recreate this glory in another kitchen. These people are the sacred tenders of our communal hearth fire. Embers could never be darkened with their careful commitment.
Today we will gather in my home, and I hope that tradition will serve the quote of a friend who once said: “Walking into Melissa’s house is like walking into a hug.” Each guest will be greeted with more than welcome… with more than nice to see you, but with overwhelming relief as pieces of hearts are reunited and once again made whole. We are a tiny community, madly in love with the souls of one another. Together, we are facing a battle with cancer and ongoing treatment, the continuing grief of a dear friend lost suddenly and way too soon, we will be missing friends whose home now requires a flight or a long day’s drive to reach, we will wait for the arrival of a friend in his 70’s who went back to work to make ends meet, we will provide updates of the health and wellness of our aging parents, as well as our own aging bodies and the surprises that arise in midlife, and possibly share stories about workplace drama – or the lack-of-a-workplace bliss, as the case may be.
But all of this seriousness will be soothed and comforted by the smiles, hugs, laughter, plans for a destination wedding in the fall for two of our beloveds, and the rapt attention of each sacred being who helps to fill this space, my personal house of worship, with the love that we seek, the commitment we sustain, and the light that we share. Oh, yeah… and by the food and wine, too. 🙂
Wishing you a Second Sunday filled with your own personal version of soul-filling, heart lifting, voice raising, complete and utter bliss.
(The First Supper by Jane Evershed)