Though Beatrice didn't know my ethnicity, she said, "Do you want to go to a worship service with me?"
The nursing home had a hall where any event could be held. Last week, a Polka tribute. This week, a worship service.
The worship service was at 7pm and I knew it wasn't the Jewish kind. We, as Jews, don't say worship service. Every Saturday morning, we say "Shabbat" service, and on the many holidays throughout the year, we have a service to commemorate that holiday, or Holy Days, as with the case of Rosh Ha'Shanah and Yom Kippur.
But we share a Bible--the Old Testament--and when it comes right down to the heart of it, we're all praying to the same God, so I said, "Sure. I'll go with you."
I figured, with a stroke and following my drop-foot surgery, a bunch of prayers couldn't hurt. In other words, I needed all the prayers I could get.
Beatrice was in worse shape than I was, so I followed the aide who was pushing Beatrice's wheelchair in my wheelchair through the narrow curves in the hallway, negotiating and steering with one left hand and foot. I didn't take the cane because it was too darn far.
At last, we arrived at the massive hall, and I thought of the chairs as pews because it was a worship service. There were hushed and whispered sounds all around. Beatrice and I sat in our own wheelchairs outside the "pews."
A few people handed out booklets from Baptist Homes Society Sunday Chapel Service which contained the notes and lyrics to the service, and minutes later, the tall pastor entered and a pretty pianist, who was already seated at the piano, started to play "Call to Worship and Lord's Prayer."
Glory be to the Father and to Son and to the Holy Ghost....
I could have hummed the melody because I could read the notes from my extensive music background. But that didn't sit right with me. I was on auto-pilot. My brain didn't want to do it, to sing those words I didn't believe in.
I mouthed the words slowly so that I would reach of end of the "Shmah" when all the gentiles would reach the end of "Call to Worship and Lord's Prayer." Translation: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the LORD is one," found in Deuteronomy 6:4.
The next song was "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." I didn't ever sing to Jesus. I automatically sang, under my breath, "Ein keloheinu." Translation:
There is none like our God, There is none like our Lord, There is none like our King, There is none like our Savior. Who is like our God?, Who is like our Lord?, Who is like our King?, Who is like our Savior?
Let us thank our God, Let us thank our Lord, Let us thank our King, Let us thank our Savior.
Blessed be our God, Blessed be our Lord, Blessed be our King, Blessed be our Savior.
You are our God, You are our Lord, You are our King, You are our Savior.
There were 3 songs left, and I sang silently the "Ma'Nishtana" for Passover and the blessing over the candles and the Dreidel song for Hanukah. It was a mish-mash of songs, in the wrong order and/or holiday, that I remembered from going to Hebrew school for 10 years and services for almost 60 years.
Then the pastor told a little tale that had to with, when I was listening, a man, some fish, and a river. I was distracted by the auto-nicity of my brain to sing the Hebrew songs rather than the gentile ones.
The service came to a close 45 minutes later and the pastor, with two hands, grabbed both Beatrice's and my wheelchairs and took us back to our rooms, Beatrice in front and me in back, confident in the knowledge that we both prayed.
Deep in my heart, I knew that God would understand.