Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 25, 2009

Opening the Door to a Stranger

Several years ago, I was asked to sing at a midnight service on Christmas Eve in a church some distance from my home. I was living in West Hartford at the time.

The invitation came at a time when I wasn’t singing regularly, and I missed it.  I knew that I could work this one-evening commitment into my busy life — nurse five-month-old Laurie, leave the house by 10:30 p.m., get to the church for a brief rehearsal, and be back in time to get a few hours sleep before she woke up for her 6 a.m. feeding.

It seems odd to me now that I would make this trip, in virtually the middle of the night, to a church I didn’t know.  But I wanted to sing, and I was flattered to be asked.

On the way there, it was bitter cold, and I lost my way.  I found myself on a four-lane highway.  At this time in my life, I was in baby mode, and my world was circumscribed by the tiny and tender.  The traffic on that highway, sparse though it was so late on Christmas Eve, seemed to crush in on me.  Cars in a hurry.  Trucks in a hurry.  People in a hurry.

Everyone was rushing.

I stopped by a lonesome payphone to double check the church address; it was long before we used cell phones.  I felt the bright bite of snowflakes on my nose and inside my collar.

When I finally arrived at the church, I stepped into a glorious, light-filled foyer, aglow with candles and flowers.  The rehearsal was nearly over, but I knew this music.  I donned a choir robe, and I was ready.

Slowly, as the congregation assembled in the pews, the vaulted ceiling filled with the happy sound of holiday greetings.  We in the choir made our way up the aisle in a candle-lit procession, our voices echoing throughout the sanctuary.  We sang “Angels We Have Heard On High” and the harmonic peals of the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” swirled around the church and beamed off the stained glass saints.

I was so glad I had come.

Afterwards, I got in the car for the long, cold drive home.  It was 1:30 a.m. on Christmas morning.  Still sated with the glow of music and warmth, but very tired, I coasted back toward home.  I knew that my baby daughter would be up with the dawn.  All I could think about was how good my bed would feel.

Just before I turned onto Homestead Avenue in Hartford, in a part of town where I sometimes lock my doors, I noticed a car ahead trying to avoid something in the road.  In the middle of the street, on a patch of ice, lay an old coat.  No.  It was. . . an injured dog?

Oh my God.

It was a body.

Continued at Westport Patch

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