I am not as active in my church as I used to be. Part of the reason is that we moved further away, and the other reason is that the increasing fatigue I have been struggling with the last few years has made me less inclined to get up and go somewhere unless I absolutely have to.
Today, September twenty-third, would have marked my twenty-third wedding anniversary had I not divorced my husband nearly two years ago. I had planned on staying close to home today, in part to examine my thoughts and feelings about the date. A few weeks ago, I agreed to attend a meeting after church today. I am really interested in the discussion, plus I knew it would probably be better if I didn't stick to my initial plan. Also, it would give me an opportunity to experience a service with our new interim minister.
I had decided on the way to church that I would get up during the "joys and concerns" portion of the service to mention my recent Lyme diagnosis, along with the fact that I had embarked on an aggressive treatment plan. As I sat through the beginning part of the service, I realized that I wanted to mention the anniversary as well. After all, it was part of the 'concern' occupying my mind.
When the time came and the microphone was in my hands, I easily shared the story of my declining health and the probable tie to the Lyme that I was recently diagnosed with. There were immediate murmurs of sympathy and support. Then, with a growing catch in my voice, I mentioned the anniversary. Many in the congregation knew my ex-husband as a pleasant soft-spoken man. Many had also been informed of his post-divorce diagnosis with ALS and his institutionalization, since he can no longer care for himself. Part of the reason for the institutionalization had to do with his declining mental state. In my acknowledgement of our anniversary, I mentioned the illness and how he was no longer the man that most of him had known. The reaction to that was still supportive, but there was also an air of discomfort.
After the service, many people came up to me to talk to me about the Lyme diagnosis. But some also came up to me to offer me comfort on a day they could tell was difficult for me.
What we see of people in public places is not always who they really are. Just because you see someone for an hour or two every week doesn't mean that you KNOW them. To really know someone takes an investment of time. To really know someone you need to experience them in a number of different places and situations. And finally, I think you need to see them in their home when they are relaxed at the end of a long and congenial evening (on top of the other experiences). Only then might you begin to see who they really are.
Only a few people at church have some true idea of what went on towards the end of my marriage. A few others think that they do, because of what my ex-husband said to them during that time. While I do not want to diminish the warm memories any of his friends at church may have of him, I do hope that they come to realize that there is always more to people than what they let you see in a limited venue for a few hours a week.