Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Faith Works 12-17

Faith Works 12-17-11

Jeff Gill


Walking down the sidewalk, hand in hand



Christmas eve, and in a light snow, they pulled up to the church.


It was such a joy to see the lights shining through stained glass, the full parking lot, the children's heads bobbing in the basement windows. He had helped dig that basement out fifty years ago, one coffee can at a time to start, crawling beneath the sanctuary. Now it just seemed to everyone there had always been a fellowship hall below the church, including them.


He picked his way across the asphalt carefully, recalling when it had been gravel. Safer, when his step was surer, but it certainly helped keep the carpets! Opening the car door, she swiveled to get out, as he opened up the walker.


They made their way to the elevator, another thing that wasn't part of the building when he'd been a trustee; she'd been president of the women's fellowship when they raised the money to put it in, one pie at a time.


In a way, there were no secrets between them. He knew about the early marriage she'd had that no one else who knew her even suspected; she knew how he wept each year watching "It's a Wonderful Life," not at the end of the movie when the basket full of money comes in, but when Clarence tells George that Harry Bailey didn't save the troopship from an enemy fighter crashing into it, because George wasn't there to save Harry.


He was a quartermaster's mate during the war (no further label needed for them as to what war), and piloted an LST across the Pacific. It had no name, just a number, even though she displaced 5,000 tons, more than many cocky ships that cruised past her with a name on the stern. They had names for their ship, but few worth repeating, or remembering. She'd heard them all, though.


She'd also heard him tell of when a Japanese Betty drilled into the starboard bow, not quite sinking the nameless Landing Ship Tank, but killing hundreds of soldiers who were helplessly waiting, and never landed on their island. She'd gotten letters from him out of Evansville where the ship was built, from Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he joked about how joining the Navy meant seeing the world, but the Midwest first (they were drilling on a mockup LST constructed in a vast building deep within the encampment, for security).


Then the long silence, the fears, and then a letter cryptical in wording, and even so half blacked out by a Navy censor. But she could tell something had happened, something changed. He told her all about it when he came home, once. And wept at that scene in the movie.


They had no secrets. He hadn't told her how bad the doctor had said the congestive heart failure was getting, but she knew; she hadn't told him that she suspected the breast cancer might be back, but he knew she'd asked if he could take her to the doctor, "after the holidays."


When the elevator got to the sanctuary floor, it stopped with a thump, and the door slowly slid open, revealing the Christmas decorations and the line of children now waiting to enter, holding small battery-powered candles. They both smiled, having spend hours (years?) on their knees with irons, paper towels, and wax paper cleaning candle wax out of the carpet after Christmas.


Their pew was marked, in a way, with a cushion that always sat there. New custodians would bring it to the office on Monday (once), and it would go back to her spot. Both hips had been replaced "back when they used hickory and pot metal" she joked, and the doctor had gently said it probably wouldn't be a good idea to go under anesthetic again.


No children had ever been raised in their home, "God had other plans for us" they both quickly answered whenever someone would ask. But here at church, they had helped raised hundreds (thousands?) over the years, and it was a family reunion more than anyone knew when everyone came together for Christmas Eve.


They had no secrets, but few knew all their sorrows; everyone knew, though, about  the joy they shared, with each other, and in being at worship. They smiled, and a light shone round about them, and no one was afraid to sit next to them.


It was Christmas Eve, and they were at home.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you think you know who this story is about, I'm sure you're right, all of you! Tell him your story of Christmas joy at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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