I took Loretta to church this morning. Originally, my plan had been to slip in the side door and go only to the Sunday school meeting since it was our last class meeting before the move to the new building--and the end of my teaching period. I decided that since I was comfortable with the building layout, I would see how Loretta did. She seems very much to take her cues from my moods and confidence level. So we unloaded at the side door near the classrooms, and away we went to find a back row seat.
She did great in the service. There were several instances of applause--something that usually ruffles new dogs up a bit. There was also a rather dynamic choral song, and she was slightly agitated but did not misbehave. By the end of the service, she seemed restless. It had been a couple of hours since parktime; so I gave her another time outside before we headed into the classroom. She did excellent crowd work, even when she needed to go outside.
The church people were phenomenal about not petting. The class had been prepped for weeks, and they were all excited to see her and looked from a distance without making eye contact. The children at this church are actually better than the adults about not petting--they remind the adults not to pet! I saw my favorite greeter, an old friend who gave me rides to church when I was an undergraduate student and didn't even have dogs yet. I've written in other entries about seeing his wife upon one of my first visits to this church, and they played a significant role in my decision to continue attending after a negative greeting experience. So today I saw Burt; and he said sarcastically, "Can I kick that dog like I did the other one?" I laughed at him, and it was nice to laugh and not be explaining about Meg's retirement fifty million times.
Next Sunday will be our opening Sunday in the new building. Today's message was based on the passage about the Israelites crossing the River Jordan and setting up stones of remembrance. They gave us each a smooth stone. It will be something that becomes a great icon for me. There was a momemt when someone talked about the intersection of joy and sorrow, and the choral song was entitled, "Where joy and sorrow meet." I thought about how significant it was that on this last Sunday, the day of meeting of joy and sorrow for Madison Park Church of God, I sat in the back row with my own personal meeting of joy and sorrow, my Loretta. As I let go of Meg and open wide my heart to all that Loretta is and all that her work means for me, I cried. I cried because Meg's part in my life was joyful, and retiring her was sorrow; and I cried because I had the opportunity to resolve the intersection of joy and sorrow in that familiar place one final time before beginning my work in earnest with Loretta. Loretta's presence in my life makes me feel that I will go to entirely new places, not just remain in Meg's old stomping grounds. It is significant that she comes home as we enter this new building.
So I will carry the stone in my purse, and I will hold it when I pray and remember all that has made me who I am--the joy and the sorrow--and I will remember all that I must keep in my heart.