It was one of those places where, if you walked in blind-folded, you’d still know where you were. The smell was as familiar to me as my favorite perfume and just as comforting. Wood, incense and humanity mingled together. Tangible.
I passed through the vestibule, pausing before entering the chapel. The holy water font was gone, stripped away like the icons and tabernacle and surely the holy relic that I never saw but was comforted just knowing it existed. My church, where I was baptized, married and baptized my own children, was being demolished. I had come for one last glimpse of what was an undeniable part of me.
Slowly, quietly I moved between the rows of pews, my thoughts centered on the times I had walked down this very aisle: as a bride, a parent, a mourner. Emotions raced through my mind as I pondered each event. Eternal hope, infinite joy, inconsolable grief.
I placed a hand on the well-worn wood of the pew and bowed. I hadn’t stepped foot in church in years, my ego and worldly sensibilities telling me it was a worthless endeavor. But in the stillness of the chapel I was compelled to abide by ancient rituals. I crossed myself and moved into a pew. My left foot reached out and pulled down the kneeler and I went to my knees, my hands moving involuntarily in a prayerful pose.
I didn’t pray, but rather listened. I heard the thud of the kneeler as it touched the wooden floor, how it groaned slightly as it accepted me. I heard memories too. Sermons, songs, children crying…so far away but right in my ear. Familiar and foreign at the same time. Home yet a place I didn’t visit.
Minutes passed and I stood to leave. I’d come to say good bye to my church, sad that it was being torn down along with my memories. As I passed through the doors, instinctively reaching for the absent font of holy water, I realized that while the building will soon be gone, my memories would never fade.