When I was 8 years old, my parents decided to separate, and eventually, divorce. My parents separating was a terrible thing to have happen to me, even if it was the right thing for my parents to do. Some of you have had a terrible thing like that happen – some of you never have.
Sometimes when something terrible happens our minds make it so we don’t remember a lot about it, and that happened to me. I don’t remember a lot about being 8, or about my parents separating. But I do remember some things.
One thing I remember is the day that for hours and hours, everyone in my house was crying. My mother was crying, my father was crying, I was crying, and my two brothers were crying.
And I remember going to stay at my grandparents’ house, with my mother and brothers, where we would continue to live for the next 5 or 6 years. Even though that was one of my favorite places to be, because things were different, it was strange, we were all unhappy, and nothing felt right.
And I remember that the next morning was a Sunday morning, when my grandmother usually went to the UU Church of the Restoration in Mt. Airy to decorate the altar. That day, she took me with her. My grandma and grandpa had been taking my brothers and I to church there every week for most of my life. But I don’t think I had ever gone early with her to do the decorating before then.
The church was different early in the morning before anyone else arrived, even the choir director or the minister. That church is made of stone and dark wood and stained glass. It was so very quiet. It was dimly lit. My grandma was there but she was not asking me to talk to her about what was wrong or think about it or anything.
We took out a beautiful cloth to put on the altar. We found some dried flowers to put there. We got some candles and put them in fancy candle holders.
I felt safe, and at home, for the first time that terrible week. And at that moment, when I finally felt safe, I knew that I would be okay. Maybe not everything would be okay or the way I wanted it to be. But I would be okay, on the other side of the terrible thing that had happened to me. And I knew that I was loved and accepted, both by my grandma and by something bigger than either of us that I could feel in the big, dark, cool building around me.
And it may be that being part of a UU congregation can give you something of that same feeling: that there are places that are safe, where you can be at home, even when things are difficult or terrible at home or at school (or work) or out in the larger world. It may be that growing up UU will help you know that you will be okay, that you have the resources to make it through even something very terrible, no matter what. It may be that being UU will help you to always remember that you are loved.