A Jew goes to church

I went to church today. Yes, you remember correctly: I’m Jewish. But my Italian neighborhood is flooded with the most beautiful churches, and ever since moving here, I’ve found their architecture and open doors alluring. But I’ve never gone in, afraid of being “outed” as Jew, even though I know the church is open to everyone.

Today, I passed my favorite church: a massive structure that looks like it’s lived there forever. “Open prayer and meditation, 2-4PM,” the sign outside said. I passed by, again chickening out.

But it’s been a tough week. Yesterday was the anniversary of when Sally died, and today is the anniversary of the funeral. My heart is heavy. Not even a block later, I turned around and walked back to the church.

Empty except for a woman tidying pamphlets with downcast eyes, the church was dark and dusty with small bits of afternoon sunlight streaming through the stained glass. I chose an aisle seat in the middle section of pews, self-conscious when the wood creaked as I sat down.

I looked around, in awe of this church I had always longed to visit. But only a minute later, I realized my eyes were closed, and I was crying.

When I opened my eyes again, I noticed two curious things. First, a small sign on the back of the first section of pews that read 22 with an arrow pointing to the bottom right. 22 is the number I associate with my mom, who was born on 2/22, and I notice it often in the time (2:22), address numbers (22, 222), and other places. It always comforts me. Second thing I noticed: a book in front of every seat, “Hymnal 1982,” the same year I was born, the year Sally gave birth to her little girl.

I heard Sally tell me, “See, I am here if you look for me. But if you don’t look for me, I can’t be here.” I understood: It is up to me to keep her alive. That is my responsibility. Look and you shall receive.