Compassion & Night Terror

originally published: 2012-04-30

Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Compassion

As we walked up the street to shul, I saw Judy walk into the shul ahead of us. Once we were inside, we exchanged small talk with Judy and, after she left, I lead Graham through foreshortened morning yoga and stretches. I was a bit nervous people would start assembling earlier because of our special guest.
One of the earliest people to arrive was a woman who identified herself as being from Lionsdale. She recognized Dr. Carus straight off, but he is pretty recognizable. Neither of us really knew her from a hole in the ground, but she seems nice. She’s been looking at a lot of different synagogues, and says she’ll definitely come back to Or Shalom.

We did indeed have a lot of people attend, and services were pretty incredible as a result. The Lionsdale woman, Rose sat on my left. Graham sat on my right, and Leah joined us and sat to his right. I allowed myself, and rather needed to involve myself, a bit more with the experience, and sort of left Graham to fend a bit more for himself as a result.

Graham told me afterwards that he looked over at me and thought I was having a great time. As it was Rosh Chodesh Nissan (the start of the month of Nissan) we went through the entire Hillel. I had forgotten to warn Graham about that – it’s a very long sequence. We came to the Torah portion, and Reb. Laura called the first Alliyah – for people commemorating a Yerztite (anniversary of a death). No one responded. After a moment, Reb. Laura changed it to anyone celebrating anything of significance, or a milestone. I got up.

I had recently figured out that in 1983, my birthday, March 15th, corresponded to Rosh Chodesh Nissan. So, as Saturday was my Hebrew birthday (as I explained to Graham – one birthday, celebrated two ways (much like he celebrates one G-d three ways) ).

Anyway, so I got a special birthday Alliyah after all, and to listen to Reb. Laura say inspirational and encouraging things to us.

The last Alliyah, was the healing Alliyah, and Graham I both chose to go up for it again. This time, Leah stood behind us up on the dais, and sheltered us under her tallit so the three of us were together. I hugged Graham tightly in a side-hug as we prayed for those we knew who needed healing. Again, I mostly felt I was there to lend Graham strength as we prayed for his mother, but I also prayed Stewart, and my co-workers. Again, Graham shocked me when we got to the part where we whispered who we were praying for out loud, I heard him mention, “and all those women who have had abortions.” Again, I thought it was his right to do so, and merely up to me to gauge Intention for myself.

We concluded by singing the healing song, which was a bit awkward to sing while clasped to Graham’s side. By that time, also, my obliques were hurting because I was sort of leaning into Graham. Leah took her tallit back, and we filed off the stage, thanking Reb. Laura as we went.

Finally it was time for our guest speaker, Karen Armstrong, who has come to Vancouver as a guest of SFU’s Centre for Dialogue to promote her Charter of Compassion, in the hopes that more cities will commit to it. Frankly, I expected to have more to say of her talk, but it was a straightforward call to action to act with more compassion for each other. Graham said some of her interpretations raised his eyebrows.

After her talk, we had Kiddush lunch. While eating lunch, Graham was contacted by his local organizer, who informed him that the preceding person for the Vigil had moved up an hour, leaving an hour’s gap. She had contacted us so we would know the stuff would have to be collected from the church, but I told Graham we could fill the hour ourselves instead. However, it was now imperative that I get as much sleep as I could.

We scurried home and once back at my house, I set Graham up with my DVD player and some DVDs, hugged him good-night, and took my leave. I slept solidly until my alarm, and got up and started getting dressed again. Unfortunately, I underestimated the time I would require getting ready, and we got to Children’s and Women’s Hospital a bit late.

Once onsite, we quickly found the 40 Days for Life anti-abortion vigil. We relieved the previous woman, who was there alone, and settled in. Graham donned a sign, and for a while I sat and watched him. He started by singing a song to, as he put it, “Get in the mood,” and then told me he wanted to do a rosary. I decided, partly to hear him better, that I wanted to walk with him. After a few cycles of the “Hail Mary”s, I started reciting along with him. I’ve always been exceptionally good at memorizing things quickly, and I found the process of saying the rosary really interesting. I’ve never had the experience of praying along with someone in quite that way before. When he started to falter, I was able to strengthen and steady him with my voice, and vice versa. It was this verbal sense of carrying each other along, which strangely matched us walking in lockstep, as though our recitations was us physically assisting the other to keep walking.

It was very powerful, but I found myself questioning what my own Intention was. I searched, and found that I was comfortable with connecting to, and praying with Mary, since she is my own. I remain uncomfortable with Jesus, because he is Other to me. I knew that saying the rosary could be interpreted as supporting Graham’s cause, even though I was more there to support Graham himself. I justified this by questioning what Pro Choice means to me. I don’t think abortion is a good option and, in many situations, I don’t think it’s the best option. I still think it should be a legal, regulated and safe option. G-d did not put me here to judge other women’s situations, or to evaluate the legitimacy of their needs and claims. I can easily pray for women to make the best choice – but I have no comment on which is the right choice.

We concluded the rosary, and I brought out my <i>siddur</i> and sang a few psalms we’d done earlier that day in shul. It drew dark. We turned back in our little pacing route, and found a man in a dark coat standing by the display. One glance, and I knew he was a priest just by his demeanour, baring, and even the way he wrapped his scarf. Graham didn’t seem to notice – he asked his if he had any questions about the demonstration. The man said he was from the Church of the Holy Name, and was part of 40 Days for Life. Graham started explaining things anyway. While Graham was turned away, I whispered to him, “He’s wearing a collar!” Graham said, “Oh!” or something of the sort, and I rather rudely moved the priest’s scarf aside so he could see the collar under it. Graham mumbled something like, “Sorry, father!”

The three of us talked for a bit, I think I alternately surprised and vaguely offended the priest. I told him I was Jewish, and then I think I insulted Japan. Graham asked for his blessing before the priest left.

After the priest had walked on, I told Graham, “I’m sorry – but if I’d told you afterwards, you’d have kicked yourself the rest of the night.” Graham said something like, “I should have noticed.” I consoled him by pointing out I’m a security guard, and it’s my job to notice. Then I teased him, “But you’re Catholic – shouldn’t priests like glow a certain colour to you in the dark, or something?”

Our shift finally drew to a close, and I discovered to my chagrin that I was having so much fun, I was reluctant to leave. I think by that point I’d gotten a bit of a performance contact high from the praying, and sort of wanted to hold onto that.

Our relief showed up, and we waited for the other person to show up so she wasn’t alone, before we left.

We checked the bus, but it was still 20min out. We decided to walk to Main, have dinner at Locus, and then Graham could walk me home. I estimated the walk to Main would take 15min, and it took exactly that.

Charlotte seated us when we walked into Locus. she had dyed her hair blond, and had on a blouse, trousers and suspenders giving her somewhat of a Clockwork Orange air, though her hair made her look like a young Gina Davis out of a League of Their Own.

I chose the fireplace table for us, and as we sat down, Graham gave me a significant look and said, “Charlotte has an engagement ring.” I said something like, “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.” Toying with the idea of adding, “I wasn’t looking at her hands…” However, I never had the chance to get to the bottom of her supposed engagement because we turned out not to be in her section. We were waited on by a bubbly Chinese woman named Kate.

Graham had the trout special; I had the pork tenderloin in white mushroom gravy special. We shared an antipasto platter to share. It came with olives, and Graham regaled me with an Arab legend that involved olives.

I drank two Lavender Juleps with the meal, and had a lovely time. After dinner, we adjourned across the street, and I introduced him to Sweet Revenge as well. I had a London fog and some cake, Graham had trifle which he declared to be excellent. Funnily enough, Graham didn’t notice I was intoxicated until I explained that I had had two drinks with dinner, then he became overly concerned for my well-being and, after dessert, walked me all the way home, to the detriment of his transit connections. Subsequently I got home at 01:00, he got home at about 03:00 judging by the text I’d told him to send me.

Robin and I went straight to bed, and I got a few hours nap.

Monday March 26 – Night Terror

I slept for a while, woke up mid-day, and worked on the filk some more. It’s called, “Accustomed to Her Faith,” inspired by something Graham came up with. Then I went to sleep, and had a night terror.

In my dream, I was somewhere, when I became aware that the something heavy around my neck[1], was one of the crucifixes given to the St. Casimir’s children at their First Communion. I tore at the neck of my clothes to get it out and off (revulsion – why am I wearing this thing?), and fumbled to unclasp the chain when I remembered it was long enough to pull over my head. I got it off, I think, and woke up.

I was lying flat on my back[2], with the weight on my chest fading[3], and found I’d flung my face mask to the far side of the bed[4]. After retrieving my mask, I was able to get back to sleep again, and slept soundly until Robin woke me to go to dinner ’round about 20:00.

[1] An albatross?
[2] I only ever sleep on my side, or 3/4 prone on my front. On the rare occasions I find myself on my back when I wake, it’s a sign of deep distress. It relates to memories of swimming – I hate swimming on my back, I usually tilt my head too far back and start to drown. Lying on my back means fear of dying.
[3] sign of night terror
[4] Tearing off blinders?

Well, I’d been praying for more guidance in dreams, and had been rather uncomfortable working on this filk because I haven’t delved quite this deeply into specifically Christian symbology. I wondered what would happen to me if I tried – I guess I got my Answer.

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