On the Sunday following Pentecost,
I stood in white shirt and jeans
beside a white-haired woman
who was wearing a simple print dress.
She lifted her hands toward heaven
voicing with many others yet another song
I didn’t know even though the words
showed clearly on the screen.
In the midst of the singing
I caught some scent of poor hygiene
that put me on the verge of nausea
and almost sent me toward the door.
Each swirling of her hands
in joyful praise
sent another souring
spreading my way.
I looked over at her,
saw clean scalp showing through thin hair,
a gentle face washed
with the pure presence of adoration.
I closed my eyes
and remembered my own mother
and the way that dementia
took away some good habits of personal care.
As we moved toward the middle
of the next song,
I felt a strange sense rising within me,
a need to speak a private message.
Afraid of her fear
or the judging of others near us,
I hesitated, waited
for some stronger stirring.
With each verse,
a terse urgency built
until I feared I might choke
if those words remained unspoken.
I leaned over close,
my face against her short hair,
my voice low and quiet
only inches from her ear:
“May the hand of the Lord be upon you;
may he fill you with the longing of your heart.
May his mercy and honor be yours;
may the hand of his blessing be upon you.”
When the song ended a bit later,
we sat down and she leaned over,
reached a thin-skinned hand toward me,
“Thank you for that,”
she whispered softly, “Thank you.”
I smiled, softly squeezed her hand and nodded,
wondering if I might feel some new prodding
as we settled into the sermon.
We often walk in the fringes of others’ lives,
having no idea of each other’s’ confessions
nor of how much good can come
from the obedience of a murmured blessing.