Who says small-town life is boring? I could certainly use a little boredom right about now. One whole day with absolutely nothing to do would be thrilling. I’m reminded of David Byrne crooning, “Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.” I used to think, back when I first heard that song, that it was some sort of existentialist view of how boring a place like heaven would be if it actually existed as it has been imagined by humans throughout our history. Then, years later, I purchased The Talking Heads’ Popular Favorites 1976-1992 /Sand in the Vaseline and read the liner notes only to discover it was a reflection on the hectic life the band was keeping back when they were touring and recording. The band members dreamed of having nothing to do. I know the feeling.
Here’s an example of what one recent weekend – weekend. You know, as in two days I’m supposed to have off? -- was like in the life of The Pastor and Wife. Friday evening, we were invited to have dinner with a couple who has been trying to have us for dinner (I’m not kidding) for about four months now. It’s been that difficult for the four of us to find an evening that we could all make it (especially since the husband of this pair had to have surgery not long ago that laid him up for about four weeks). We ended up staying until 11:00, which is normal in CT, when you go to people’s houses for dinner around 7:00, but very late in a place where dinner invitations are usually for 5:00. Saturday morning, barely awake, we got one of those “dreaded” calls to The Pastor letting us know that one of our members, who’s been under hospice care since February, had died. Although the family planned to wait a few weeks, so that some family members who live in Georgia could come, to do the memorial service, the private, family burial was planned for Sunday morning in the graveyard at what’s known as “The old church,” the original church building. This is the church where we hold the 8:00 a.m. service during the months of July and August (it’s a little over 2 miles down the road from here).
Having received this call, Bob felt it was important for him to visit the family on Saturday. We had already been invited to a group picnic Saturday evening, which was planned for 5:30. I suggested we just go visit before we headed to the picnic, so we called the woman hosting the picnic, told her we might be a bit late, and, when Bob had finished writing his sermon (Saturday is usually his sermon-writing day, since people – except when there is serious illness or a death in the family – tend to leave him alone on Saturdays), we headed over to the newly-widowed woman’s home. I love this woman. She’s a reader and proceeded to bring out the three books she’d most recently read, all of which sounded good to me, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Reading? Who has time to do that these days?” as I watched the clock, worrying about how late was too late to arrive at the picnic.
Actually, I thought I would have that time for a little while on Sunday. Bob’s Sunday morning was going to be anything but heavenly. He had to lead the 8:00 service at the old church, be back at the new church by 9:15 to conduct the summer Sunday elective (ironically, a six-week look at finding peace in a hectic life), lead the 10:30 a.m. service, and be back at the old church by 11:45 for the burial (because the funeral home had two other burials that Sunday, and this was the only time it could be done). He was then going to do what he always does with grieving families, which was to sit around and let them reminiscence together. This is a healing process he learned about in seminary and also a good way for him to get information for the memorial service. I thought I’d go to church at 8:00, Sunday elective at 9:15, and then be free from 10:15 until 3:30, when another friend of ours had very kindly hired her massage therapist to come to her house and give us all (Bob, her husband, her, and me) massages – time to read, right? But no, as we were leaving the 8:00 service, the widow’s daughter-in-law tells Bob that the widow is really hoping I will come to the burial and to their house for lunch and reminiscing afterwards. Well, what am I going to say? “I know your husband just died, but I don’t want to come. This was my one chance to lie around and read for a few hours.”
Oh, and then I walked in the door of the new church and suddenly remembered that we had a “fall lecture series,” of which I am a co-head on the task force, meeting at 11:30. I had to tell the other co-head that I was now going to the burial and would not be able to make that meeting, so she and I decided to skip the Sunday elective and catch up right then and there. There went my chance to learn more about finding peace in a hectic life. I guess I’ll just have to read the book Bob read that inspired him to do the series. Bob led the elective while I had my meeting. Then I had an hour to come home and pretend I had more time than that to read while he led the 10:30 service. At 11:40, I met him at the car to race back to the old church for the burial, and then it was on to the grieving family’s house for lunch.
I will say the massage that afternoon was heavenly. For a brief half-hour, it really did seem as though nothing were happening. But I wouldn’t recommend drinking two beers on top of a massage. I had to go to bed at 8:30. Then again, maybe that had nothing to do with the massage and beers?