For the past few Sundays, I have been able to attend my old church near Tiskilwa, Illinois. Willow Springs was the congregation that became home to me and is where I met the people I call my second family.
I started going there just after my first son was born. Since I was raised Catholic, I’d been taught that without baptism, no one could get to heaven, not even an innocent baby. But the Catholic Church would not baptize my son unless my husband and I attended catechism classes–despite the fact that I’d already spent 5 years in a Catholic grade school and had attended church regularly until my teen years.
The Mennonite faith believes baptism should take place after a person is old enough to choose. With the assurance that God would not reject my children because they had not been anointed with oil while still in diapers, I started attending Willow Springs and found not only friends, but a faith within me I didn’t know I was missing.
A lot has happened since the day I dedicated my firstborn to God and promised to bring him up in Christ with the help of my fellow church members. Divorce, separation from my sons, and lost years before we reunited and got to know one another again. I moved to the big city, published a book, made new friends. They grew up to become fine young men, following their hearts and keeping people safe.
Yet when I stood on the front lawn at Willow Springs yesterday, with the wind blowing in off the newly harvested fields, it seemed like I could see my sons’ blonde heads as they ran through the grass playing ball with their friends, glad to be released from Sunday School. My heart grieved for the beautiful boys they once were, back before the turmoil of the adults in their lives forced them to grow up faster than they should have.
Greg and Chris are alive and well, thank God, but I swear, as I stood there alone, I felt the ghosts of their childhood blowing in the wind, and laughter whipped through the tree branches.