January is traditionally a time of new beginnings.
In my case, it also marks an ending.
January is the final month of my three-year term as a deacon at church.
One of our main duties as deacons was to deliver flowers that were in the sanctuary during worship to someone in the congregation deemed worthy. Someone who was sick, who had a death in the family, who experienced a joy such as a milestone anniversary or a significant personal success. Generally one of the pastors helped us decide on appropriate recipients.
Theoretically this duty fell to each of us roughly once a month. However, I think I shouldered the burden somewhat more than the average. That’s because often the situation arose that there were two deacons and one flower arrangement. These may be salt-of-the-earth, good-fearing, honest-as-the-day-is-long people, but when they needed an excuse as to why they couldn’t go visiting on any Sunday afternoon, they were amazingly quick-on-the-draw. And I was amazingly slow-on-the-uptake. So I generally ended up holding the bag, or in this case, the vase. Filled with flowers.
I should say at the outset that I met some terribly interesting people. I met some people who were incredibly grateful for the flowers and the visit. I met some people who subsequently became good friends.
But it wasn’t always a bed of roses.
One of the arrangers had a real artistic flair. When it was her Sunday, you never knew what to expect. I remember one artsy arrangement with three terribly tall flowers looming high above some squatty little things. It was a hot day, and we took my visiting mother-in-law out to lunch after church. Big mistake. By the time I got back to the car, one of those tall flowers had taken a nose dive. I had no choice but to yank it out of there. The remaining two looked considerably less artsy and considerably more weird. And they both appeared about ready to call it a day as well. I beat feet to get the arrangement delivered before there was more collateral damage. The recipient must have thought “What the heck?!”
One time I was tasked with giving the flowers to a guest minister who had led us in worship. I thought it would be a simple endeavor, just some friendly chitchat. When I tracked him down after the service I found him in tears. He had apparently just learned that his wife’s best friend had just passed away. Suddenly I felt like I was supposed to minister to the minster. Yikes!
Speaking of tears…once I took them to a woman whose husband had passed away. She invited me in, but didn’t offer me a seat. So it seemed reasonable that a brief visit was all she wanted. But the conversation seemed to flow and I didn’t see a good chance to excuse myself. I knew I had stayed to long when I found myself in tears over her husband’s death and she was comforting me.
Then there was the time the lucky recipients were a couple celebrating a thirtieth wedding anniversary. I called ahead and was told, by all means, this is a great time, come on over. When I got there the husband didn’t come all the way out to my car, but he pretty much met me in the front yard. I would have liked to have said something to the wife but it was pretty clear I was not going to be ushered inside and she wasn’t making an appearance outside. Ordinarily, I might think that the house was embarrassingly untidy. But because of the anniversary thing I kept getting this mental image of some sort of love nest inside—with candles and rose petals and soft music and—well, you get the picture. I wish I could get it out of my head.
And while we’re on the subject of weddings…When the church hosted a wedding on a Saturday we frequently used the same flowers the following day for worship. One particular ceremony must have been especially elaborate because I could barely lift the flowers and cram them into the passenger seat of my car. The house I was delivering them to wasn’t particularly small, but it had lots of stuff in it. Virtually every horizontal surface was covered. I managed to clear a space on the kitchen table that was barely big enough to hold the enormous display. Given that the woman was recovering from arm surgery, I’m guessing those posies stayed right there for quite sometime.
On one occasion I left the home with a nagging feeling that I had mangled my pronunciation of the family’s name. It bothered me for a while. But then one Sunday the father introduced himself to me and welcomed me, thinking I was a visitor. Clearly, I had made no impression whatsoever on them. So I don’t worry about that anymore.
All in all, I’m happy to have a break from my Sunday afternoon misadventures. And they’re probably better off without me.