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How great Thou art.

October 14, 2012

Last weekend some women at my parents’ church threw me a bridal shower. I grew up at Sonoraville Baptist and began attending Sunday School at what then was called the Nursery. A classy mother-daughter duo planned the majority of the shower; the late Thelma Wood (the hostesses’ mother and grandmother, respectively) taught my Sunday School class in the Nursery. Daddy even named his red heeler puppy Thelma in honor of Miss Wood. Additionally, the shower decorations reminded me of toddlerhood. Crystal vases held wild ferns and Queen Anne’s Lace – two plants that symbolize my childhood spent romping on my parents’ 16 acres of woods and pasture.

Even though I know the hostesses were happy to put together such a nice party, I felt sort of guilty since I haven’t regularly attended church in seven years.

“It doesn’t matter. You’re still one of our babies,” one of the eldest shower attendees told me.

Everyone’s kindness and generosity overwhelmed me, but I experienced a lot of conflicting emotions over the course of the weekend. Daddy came to the shower because I asked him to, so he sat in a chair in the church library munching angel sausage biscuits, asparagus in a blanket and graham crackers topped with cream cheese/chocolate chip spread while surrounded by women. He and Mother gave me separate gifts with personal notes. Since I left home for college, Mother has sent me handwritten letters on a weekly basis; the Martin Luther quote she provided on cherubic stationery touched but didn’t surprise me:

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

I love you! - Daddy

However, Daddy had given me one note prior to the shower in 2001, scribbled on a rainbow trout-themed sheet from a pad. My stomach sank at the simple sincerity of the message he offered last Saturday:

I love you!

– Daddy

I had worried that Daddy never would write to me again before losing that capability. I’ll keep the tiny notecard accented with a white frosted heart forever.

Some other women signed cards with Biblical quotes about love. The following lines from Song of Solomon particularly struck me:

Love…burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.

“Oooo, Song of Solomon is steamier than I thought!” I pointed out.

“Ahhh!” — “Eeeee!” — “Ha. Ha. HA!” a lot of the ladies clapped and giggled.

“Apparently you need to read more Song of Solomon,” one hostess informed me.

I accompanied my parents to Sunday School and church the next day, as I figured it would be tacky of me to accept so many presents and then rush back to Atlanta. Sunday School remained calm until a man named B.D. asked Daddy to substitute teach the class later in the month. “Robert! NO!” Mother yelled after overhearing him accept the offer. She scurried to the corner of the room and cried while everyone else filed out of the door for the church service. (I’ve written a couple blog posts about this recurring issue.)

Mother and I eventually entered the sanctuary and found Daddy on a pew talking to B.D.

“Let me go talk to him,” I said.


“Why not? Why can’t we just be direct?”

“No, no, Bobbin NO!”

Mother and I yanked on each other in the front of the sanctuary while the choir director incited the congregation to join him in the worship of song. Some people stared at us until we scooted into the pew where Daddy had moved.

“What were you talking to B.D. about?” Mother asked.

“I don’t remember,” Daddy shrugged.

“It was just a second ago! What were you talking about?!”

“I don’t remember! I don’t remember!”

Somehow we got quiet because everyone around us started singing “How Great Thou Art.”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Anxieties surrounding Daddy’s condition and my own faith swelled in my brain, and I couldn’t bring myself to join the chorus. I started sobbing instead.

“How can you sing this?” I interrogated Mother. “Is this not b-b-b-bullshit? IS THIS NOT BULLSHIT?”

“Bobbin. PLEASE,” Mother muttered into my ear.

A young couple in front of us uncomfortably shifted.

During the majority of the sermon I clutched Daddy’s arm and nestled into the cubby of his shoulder feeling sentimental, grateful, guilty and angry all at the same time. I excused myself to the restroom, and when I came back Mother had shifted beside Daddy leaving me on the end of the pew. I squinted into the carpet and contemplated a simpler time when I presented my parents with bouquets of wild ferns and Queen Anne’s Lace, and the juxtaposition of joy and sadness I felt when I saw them arranged in vases at the bridal shower buffet table.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    December 14, 2012 5:57 pm

    Well, I’m glad you enjoyed the shower if not the church ceremony the next day! I’m jealous that you have a card from Daddy.

    • December 14, 2012 6:16 pm

      You should get his autograph when you’re home for Christmas.

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