I wore a hat to church on Easter Sunday, the first time in 20 years my head had been covered for the singing of alleluias. I almost changed my mind in the parking lot as I walked by churchgoers, bare-headed, hair, shiny and neat.
But I wanted to be noticed, not for a vanity rush, but because our son, Paul, was our priest for the day, returning to the pulpit a scant two weeks after emergency surgery.
I figured if he spotted his father and me in the crowd, he could nod his head if he felt faint.
I had already had warnings from his parishioners before church began.
“Far too soon for him to be back,” said one, reminding me she was a former nurse.
“Did the doctor say he could preach today?” asked another. I assured them I had bored everybody within hearing range, expressing my concerns on “overdoing,” but my mothering advice, heeded years back, (“Please wear your jacket, it’s cold outside,”) had waned.
Paul didn’t faint, but he did drink plenty of water during his sermon and he mopped his brow. By mid-afternoon, after Easter lunch, I was embracing my old role. If I said, “Why don’t you take a nap” once, I said it a dozen times.
Two Thursday nights earlier, he had limped into a hospital emergency room in bent-double pain. Heart problems were ruled out, thank the Lord. He’s 42.
Gall bladder seemed a likely culprit, but imaging did not agree.
Finally, a sighting was found in the intestine, diverticulitis, treated by antibiotics, the first doctor decreed. But a surgeon on call took a closer look, deciding the problem was more serious. He operated that Saturday morning.
After surgery, he brought a photograph of the anomaly he found to show us. If he had waited to operate, even until Monday, it could have ruptured. I fell on his neck, weeping like the scared mother I was.
He patted my back. “Your baby did just fine,” he said. He went on to explain about staples and recovery, firm on his patient’s diet, not even an ice chip for at least three days.
And then he said, “After I dealt with the infection. I washed the area clean.”
And, since words are visual lifelines for me, I found myself thinking “washed clean” would surely be written into an Easter sermon Paul would preach down the road.
Washed clean: A spring rain taking away pollen, a baby baptized on the eve of Easter, a priest scrubbing an altar on Maundy Thursday to signify all that is holy had been taken away until the sun rose three days later, a surgeon washing away remnants of infection that left unchecked could threaten a life.
In six weeks time, Paul, the priest, will be back on his riding lawn mower, making hospital visits himself, checking on the sick and shut in, the tenderness of a scar on his chest a reminder of a Holy Week he won’t forget.
For now, I’m hovering by phone, offering food, asking questions. In my mind’s eye, I still see him in the pulpit, raising his arms to make a point, while I pictured a row of staples in his chest, loosened to fly north and south.
After the Easter service, though he was cautioned not to lift, Paul held a four-day- old baby against his shoulder, a child born at home whose mother had brought him to church.
The tiny new life was light as a feather, he said.
I’ve stashed my Easter hat in a closet. I’m definitely too old for a crown of cabbage roses, but a mother has to be prepared for a rescue mission, even in church.
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.