It was his therapist who suggested he try going to church again. Faith obviously meant something to to Danny Brady and maybe a community of faith could help him through this grieving process; he grieved for his team (Faulkner and Todd and Hafida, and for Chaz whom he would likely never see again), he grieved for his job, and for his legs. Danny took his therapists suggestion and rolled it around in his hands like a pill he was working up the nerve to take.
Finally, he acted on it. The church he decided to go test he didn’t choose on much: a rainbow flag out front (next to an inexplicable comma) and a wheelchair ramp. Gray came with him that first Sunday as much of a statement as for moral support but no one batted an eye. Gray seemed more ill at ease with the situation than anyone, not understanding the slightest draw of being Christian while gay.
They were overdressed. Danny had insisted on his Baptist Sunday best, and there was the pastor, a white man in his mid-thirties, just starting to bald with laugh lines settling in on his face, wearing his stole over a Washington Nationals jersey and jeans.
At the door to the sanctuary they were greeted by a young brown-skinned woman, gamma thin, with her natural hair curling about her her ears in a ‘fro. Her long thin fingers passed them programs and hymnals and Danny’s heart stopped in his chest.
“Hi, I’m Rebecca. I’m the student pastor. Welcome to Trinity.” She gave them a welcoming smile, body language open, voice bright and clear but quiet. This girl would not whip beaded braids around her head or make techs fall to their knees. Hafida was gone and was not coming back.
Danny managed a smile and wheeled himself past to the half-pew that was handicapped seating.
Danny could tell that the Call to Worship was meant to be soothing, mellow, but it only served to put him on edge, make him nervous of what was to come. They sang songs he didn’t know, and while he could follow along in the hymnal they weren’t the Baptist songs of his childhood. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
The Old Testament scripture reading was Psalms 51: 7-12:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that You have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
The pastor preached on the Old Testament scripture. He preached about guilt, about believing you’re guilty even when there is nothing could have done differently. He preached about hearts that are unclean with guilt and how God could purify those hearts, absolving his flock of the things they carry heavy within them. And Danny Brady felt something in his chest unlock.
It was like someone had snuck in and gotten to the trunk in his chest where he had buried everything these past months and gone in with a lock pick. His throat was tight and there was a tickle in his nose and he couldn’t remember the last time he had cried.
“Do we need to go?” Gray leaned over, worry creasing his brow. He was as unused to seeing Danny cry as Danny was to crying.
“No,” Danny sniffed, eyes wet, “No, this is good.” Gray passed him the handkerchief from his suit that was probably never meant to tough tear or nose. Danny used it anyway.
At the time for sharing Joys and Concerns. Danny shared the joy of coming to visit that day and a concern for each hole in his heart where a teammate used to be. And they lift his prayers up to God, many more than two gathered in His name.
After worship, they are invited to fellowship, and Danny lets Gray fetch him pastries while he discusses the differences between Baptist service and this one with Rebecca, the type of nerd who will appreciate the liturgical differences.
While talking to her he notices the loose way her collar falls on her shirt, too wide for her thin neck and how quickly the four pastries on her plate disappear, and how quickly she disappears for more. She laughs about she just cant stop eating lately, but is still dropping weight and she doesn’t know why, but there is the edge of something scared in her voice. People know what gamma’s are now.
And she is not Hafida. Whenever it counted Brady couldn’t get it together enough to help her. She is not Hafida, she is Rebecca, and maybe he can help her.