Monday, 27 April 2009

Why I Cried On Sunday

You would think that being severely disabled would be enough, but, oh no, on top of FSH MD you can still get all the coughs, colds, infections and allergies that everybody else get to endure. Normally that's just life but occasionally circumstances combine to present you with a very particular situation as occurred on Sunday.

Friends Stewart and Catherine had asked Polly and me to be godparents to their youngest son, Elliot. Wonderful, we were thrilled to be asked and the service was held at our church, Holy Trinity in Wallington on Sunday.

Holy Trinity is one of those Victorian edifices that stands, complete with steeple, on the approach to Wallington and has served the local community for generations. In recent years the multi-purpose, all singing all dancing Trinity Centre has been artfully integrated into the fabric of the structure providing a hall and function rooms as well a kitchen to further serve the people of Wallington. On Sunday a couple of hundred people gathered for the morning service, supplemented by friends and family of Stewart and Cath because the Christening would form part of the service, and sang hymns and worship songs and generally behaved in a typically Anglicany manner.

Stewart and I had placed ramps in position to enable me to get up on to the raised dais. When the time came for the Christening I ascended the ramps and took up my godfatherly position with Polly and the others in the party. We promised to raise Elliot in the Christian faith and on cue he began to cry. Stephen, the vicar, took Elliot to the font and splashed him in an appropriately holy way. Elliot was so surprised he forgot to cry and spent the rest of the ceremony tracking rivulets of water as they dripped from his head.

The problem started for me when the Christening was over and I had to negotiate the ramp again. There is something in the air within the church that makes my eyes run. I don't know if it is the dust, the polish or pollen from the flower displays. It may well be a combination of all three; I don't know. What I do know is that by the end of the ceremony my eyes were streaming so much so that I could hardly see. The ramp was a complete watery blur as I gingerly crept towards it trying to align my wheels so as to slot into each of the 8 inch wide channels. 200 blurry faces watched patiently as I edged forward, tears streaming down my cheeks, hoping I had remembered exactly where each channel was placed. I was so busy trying to line up with the ramp that, when I was finally descending it, I barely remembered to brace myself in time to prevent myself from being pivoted forward and out of the wheelchair in an undignified heap onto the transept in front of the pews. By the time I was back in my place I could barely see anything nor hear anything other than the pounding of my heart.

When the next hymn started I made my way down the aisle, negotiating fellow wheelchair users and baby buggies, and out into the clearer air of the Trinity Centre. The sweet, elderly lady on door duty looked at me aghast. To her I looked like a weeping member of the congregation, fleeing the service in tears. She must have presumed that I was overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of my godfatherly duties, or so moved by singing about mountains being laid low or what have you, that I was having an emotional and spiritual breakdown. She immediately placed a hand on my shoulder and told me everything would be all right. I assured her it would be and she reluctantly let me go without counselling.

Later, after the service, several people asked me if I was okay and remarked that I looked rather red and flushed. I'm sure I did, though whether from an allergic reaction or embarrassment I couldn't tell you.

The rest of the day was lovely. We had a buffet lunch together and Elliot, slightly bemused, is now presumably safe in terms of his immortal soul until such times that he is old enough to take responsibility for it himself. Maybe, when he is older, he will be told how his godfather was moved to tears on the occasion of his baptism. Be happy, Elliot, God bless.