For my friends who believe in the power of dreams & the gifts they can be. For those who relentlessly reach towards the light. For anyone who has ever felt they’ve needed forgiveness from the only person on earth you thought you’d never need to hear it from….
In the middle of last night, I visited this old red, brick church. I had been there one time before. I recognized it as soon as I saw it. It’s unremarkable from the outside except for its red brick, its sheer size and the massive, chlorophyll green expanse of lawn that fronts it beyond the sidewalk. I know I’m with a group of people, but I can’t remember who they are.
What’s so magical about the place is that the basement is cavernous and happens to be the opening, on the left side, to a winding, spiral staircase flanked by the most gorgeous, uninterrupted series of back-lit stained-glass windows I’ve ever seen. The dusty stone steps make the space seem like its ancient, like it’s been there well beyond the lifetime of the church building itself. I keep wondering how those windows can be backlit at all when we’re in the basement, below the ground.
I start the climb up the stone steps. As I go, my hand is out and I’m running my fingers over the beads of lead holding together the myriad panes of intensely coloured glass that make up each vignette. The glass spirals fluidly around with the staircase, throwing kaleidoscopic shadows on the opposite wall. It’s exquisite, and it feels thick and cool to the touch. I think to myself that I should take some pictures of this, but then I remember that the last time I was here I tried the same thing but I just couldn’t capture their beauty in a photograph. I reach for my phone in my pocket, but then give up on the thought.
As we climb, our guide is telling us about the windows. And maybe a little about the history of the church. I’m so enamoured by the beauty of it that I don’t pay a lot of attention. I see though that the staircase is becoming very narrow and the ceiling is lowering. It continues narrowing until we come to where the stairs stop and become a small tunnel. To make it to the next part of the beautiful view, we’ll have to push ourselves through the tunnel on our bellies. It’s too small to even go on our hands and knees.
I remember that the last time I was here, I forced myself through the tunnel. I’m claustrophobic and didn’t want to, but I recall doing it. This time, I fear being stuck. Not only do I fear it, I’m just not having it. I recognize in that instant, that I don’t need to go through the tunnel. The others do, because they’ve never seen what I’ve seen. I have already made the journey there.
I’m wearing my winter pea coat which is thick and warm. I do briefly consider taking it off and pushing it through the tunnel ahead of me, but I instantly know that whatever I do, I’m going to get stuck. I turn around to the guide and refuse to go further. I ask her for directions on how I can get back to the front of the church to meet my friends when they’re finished. She points me to a door at the top of some stairs on the opposite side of the basement and takes me there while the rest of my group enter the tunnel, one after the other.
I emerge from that door at the top of the steps on a landing, high above a room where, below, I can see many people spread out at long tables. It looks like a study hall. Or an ancient library. I think they’re meditating. Or praying. Some of them appear to be reading. The guide leads me down the stairs into the room where another older woman greets me, and then the guide leaves.
I talk to the older woman for a bit to explain that I’m looking for the way to the front door so that I can meet up with my group. I think we talk about other things that I can’t remember. She performs some kind of blessing over me. I don’t remember the words. And then she holds a clear, glass bowl up to me. It’s full of small white cards. They look like business cards but appear to be blank. She asks me to choose one to take with me, and I do.
When I turn it over, I see these words written on it in red ink:
You are forgiven. For whatever mistakes and sins you think you still carry. You are forgiven.
I wake up in the instant that I realize that those words are written in my mother’s gorgeous, trademark script.