by Linda Curtis
It was the day of my 72nd birthday that I thought I’d buy myself something, something truly spontaneous at the 24-hour open pharmacy on my way to church. It was in the children’s section of toys and gizmos that I saw it, a fake blood-shot eyeball for 75 cents. I laughed. Wouldn’t the grandkids like that for a joke?
I amused myself so much, too much, that I forgot to switch glasses and wore my sunglasses into church. I eased myself into the pew and happily saw a few others had done the same. It was a brightly lit church, with the sun streaming in the east window, and a shaft of light struck my face so I moved slightly to avoid it.
In church, the thought of a fake eyeball in my pocket made me smile. I thought about placing it in the collection plate as it passed by, but knew the old grouch next to me would make comment.
My attention went back to the sermon, a good lesson about forgiveness. Heaven knows I had to forgive the intentional atrocities of others.
We all stood up as the congregation flipped through the hymnals for the next song. It was then my hand fingered the eyeball in my pocket. I carefully pulled it out cupped in my hand and lifted my sunglasses just enough to pop the fake into place over my right eye and lower my sunglasses in one movement.
This was like a delicious secret and I giggled to myself. I sang louder than usual, giving a resounding last note. Amen.
The Reverend cleared his throat, viewed his congregation left to right and asked, is there anyone here who needs prayers, raise your hand. “I do.” A little old lady announced, standing up in the second row.” I’m going into surgery tomorrow”. “Of course, our prayers are with you,” he said and nodded to the church secretary who immediately wrote it down so flowers and get-well cards could be sent.
It was at that moment as the minister scanned the audience, that I lifted my sunglasses to my forehead, leaned into the shaft of light and remained motionless. I saw his gaze, his startle, his gasp. I dropped my sunglasses down, and stayed motionless.
The Reverend moved for the glass of water under the lectern and took a drink. “We’ll now sing Hymn 624,” he croaked, sending the choir into a twitter as no one had sung that medieval difficult to sing hymn in years.
I leaned forward with a cough and the eyeball popped into my cupped hand, and I placed back into my pocket.
After somewhat regaining his composure, the minister looked at the old lady in the sunglasses and wondered if he saw what he thought he saw. He concluded the service, forgetting procedure several times but still led the procession out of the church. I waited until all had shaken hands with the minister and I, the last one, shook his hand while transferring the plastic bloodshot eyeball into his palm at the same time. The expression on his face was priceless. “Can you forgive me, Reverend?” I asked with my sweetest granny smile.
His face began a flush, then a rosy blush as his eyes widened. “You!” he said.
I hurried away and wondered if I dared to return to church the following week. But I did.
The sermon was again on forgiveness. The Reverend admitted there was an event in his life that flabbergasted him, and he struggled all week with the choice of forgiving or not. A congregation member, of all things. This set the congregation into a speculation about who had done the unforgivable, and every face cautiously looked around. No name was given, even though the Reverend said he had forgiven the person who obviously was partially demented. I smiled. The congregation relaxed and sat back.
However, the basic nature of humans is to think any blame is theirs. After church service, a very somber line of handshaking progressed slowly as each member apologized for whatever it was they did.
One by one, each member confessed to their unforgivable deed, from missing the urinal in the men’s restroom to sneaking three cupcakes from the last church potluck dinner. One said his gum was still under the pew but he’d scrape it off before the next meeting. Some transgressions were so simple, a torn page in the hymnal, the pianist who played in the wrong key at one service and thought the choir was off key. A choir member confessed to intentionally singing too loudly into the ear of the awful soprano ahead of him. Even the janitor, who upped the furnace heat on church day, confessed to sleeping late one morning leaving the congregation bundled up with gloves and scarves throughout the service, teeth chattering through the hymns.
The Reverend was amazed and shocked by each admission, but he chose to forgive every one. This was, in fact, inspiring. This congregation really needed him.