10 May 2020

She Took Me to Communion

The day my Mama died she took me to communion. I was eating, as we do when a loved one dies and we do not know what else to do. I was standing in the kitchen, the taste of potato salad a ghostly presence in my mouth.

The chalice was a stainless-steel pot clutched in my shaky hands. There was no wine. The blood of Christ manifesting as a soothing pool of pot likker holding a mess of collard greens. If the kitchen can be said to shelter and sustain, then this one was church. I could see it overlaid on my sore eyes. She was sitting at the organ, absorbed, smiling. For fifty-one years, she had played it for the church she grew up in.

The voice called, summoning us to the rail. I worried that we had no bread. She was unconcerned.

My shadow had not crossed the threshold of a church to worship in more years than I could recall. Yet to be there, that was the important thing. The kitchen ceiling raised up. Becoming warm wood, the cross on a wall of brick. Without knowing it, I knelt. The pot was too heavy for its size. I lifted the warm metal to my lips. Salt and iron. Green intensity as wine soothing the gullet. The taste of such a thing revealed to me the meaning of the term “soul food.” I drank, thirsty and grateful and knowing that we were loved.

I would no longer have the blessing of sharing that love with her as we gathered around the table that evening. I did know this: She slipped away peacefully. That is a blessing few of us receive. Far from home, tears trickled down into the greens upon my plate. I ate in a bit of funeral silence except for her voice whispering to me that someday we will all be home, and we can take communion.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...