Lament for Bagel and Bongo


I don’t often go to church.  I plan to go, I wish I did go, but the plain simple truth is, I don’t.  The only time I go is when I’m visiting my brother’s family, because they go.

I like church.  Well, I like THEIR church.  The idea of Unitarian Universalism really speaks to me, of deeds before creeds, and of making the world a better place for more people.  It’s a practical religion.  It’s open and accepting.  So, if I ever do “return to the fold”, that’s probably the place for me.  Certainly I feel very comfortable in their congregation.

My only problem is, I always cry at church.  I don’t sob, I don’t wail, but I always cry a little bit.  I’m not always sad, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed, I think, or feeling in a safe place to let it go.  I’m a little embarrassed by it, so I try to be as quiet as possible about it.  Usually no one notices.  That’s how I like it.


This particular congregation has a kick-ass choir, with an awesome pianist. At the end of the service, they presented a new piece, a postlude written by the pianist/choir director, “Peace is in Our Hands” (although I must admit I heard it as “Voices in Our Heads” when they were rehearsing it beforehand, but I was out in the foyer).

Great.  There was a young man playing the bongos in this piece.  I met him at a church potluck last month, and I remember him because he has the same name as my youngest nephew, and he went to Trent U here in Peterborough, so we had a little chit chat.

Years ago, when Ron Toufar had the Garden Cafe, he held coffee houses, and lots of people, me included, would go and sing and play long into the night.  Ron loved music, but he didn’t sing or play any instruments, except the bongos.  He was an enthusiastic impromptu accompanist, and I always found it quite endearing.

We lost Ron a few years ago, too young, and I miss him.  I hadn’t seen him often over the last ten years of his life, but he always took an active interest in me, we chatted online quite often, and he was always very encouraging of any sort of creativity.  He was a great, great guy.

So, I went up to the young man, after the service, to tell him how much I enjoyed the bongos, because they reminded me of Ron – AND I BURST INTO TEARS AND CRIED ALL OVER HIS NECK.

I’m such a jerk.  I’m so embarrassed.


8 responses »

  1. you're being way too hard on yourself…I'm often amazed how often I tear up during services…it's part of connecting with other humans in a common space…and I'm sure the bongo player, while he might not have known how to react was ultimately touched that his music touched you.

  2. We went to my friend's place for Easter dinner a year or two ago, and right after I arrived, my friend introduced me to her dad, whom her kids called "Dziadek" – grandfather in Polish. I burst into tears! Big ones. My own Dziadek died in 1991. So, nearly 20 years later, the word "Dzidek", which I seldom ever hear, just did it for me. I didn't fully regain my composure all night. However, my friend's dad and mom were quite touched. It's such a special family work. I got lots and lots of hugs that night.

  3. When people cry at church, I just call it "normal". I've seen it happen to all kinds of people when they first start coming. Your heart opens up a bit and a whole whack of stuff sees a chance to get out. Better out than in.When I first started going to church I cried almost every week: I'd just left my marriage, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died a year later. So I had "legit" reasons to cry. I found out it was a safe place to do it and then for a good 7 years I always seemed to have a reason to cry: grief (so much effing grief) feeling overwhelmed or loved, joy, inspiration, disappointment, connectedness etc. Then I figured out I was depressed and found good role models (some of whom happen to read your blog I happen to know) who helped me with that. …bla bla bla… Anyway, cry away Lynne. Cry away. Crying means that you have been strong on the outside for too long. Eventually it will make you stronger on the inside.Monica

  4. I'm with you, Lynne! I haven't stepped foot inside a church for the last 15-20 years without crying. I don't even go to church but any event at a church brings them out (weddings, Christmas sings, piano recitals, etc). As soon as I hear the music, I'm a goner. Embarrassing at first but I just learned to bring extra kleenex now and go with it. I know it's going to happen so why fight it? I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. Foolishly thought I was! Thanks for sharing. Kim

  5. Lynne, you are cool and tough. You also have a wonderful, generous heart and spirit and a tremendous depth of feeling. Happy and sad tears are part and parcel. It can be very difficult to be okay with being vulnerable, but it's a good fight.

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