Sunday, March 30, 2008

The end of an era

I'm supposed to be at Mass right now, but I decided not to go. Well, it wasn't that I didn't go at all, I actually did go. I attended Mass at the local church here because I elected not to drive into the City today to go to our regular church. First off because I've been super sick all week. This is the absolute worst I've felt all pregnancy. It started Monday afternoon with general malaise, sort of like when you're coming down with the flu. Instead I got a very nasty upper respiratory tract infection. At one point I could barely breathe and had no energy to do anything but lie down (which made breathing even harder). I ended up going back for monitoring on Thursday and me and the baby were both tachycardic due to my fever. I'm doing better now, thank God. At least coughing no longer feels like I'm spewing parts of my lung out.

But the real reason I decided not to go to Mass today was because it was supposed to be our "last" Mass. Let me go back a little bit to put things in perspective.

I was baptized at this church in 1975 (age 1) and it has been my parish ever since. I attended grammar/junior high school there and completed ALL of my sacraments there. Up until college I attended the English masses as these were similar to the ones we would attend as part of school. Then in 1991 or so I started attending the "charismatic" mass in the downstairs chapel. All the parts of the Mass are essentially the same. The only difference is that everything that can be sung is sung, and that the style of the music itself is not hymns accompanied by an organ, rather it's more of a folk/popular music style. At first there was only a guitarist there but eventually they added electric bass and drums. Also, the singers used microphones. In the Fall of 1992 I was invited into this choir (as a singer) by the then director. When I became a music major in 1994 and started learning music theory I became more involved in the actual music itself. When the bass player left in 1995, I looked to the new guitarist (my now husband) to help me figure out how to play. By the beginning of 1996 I became the group's bassist. When the director left around 1997 or so, he named my boyfriend (now husband) and I the new directors, a post we've held ever since. Aside from the selection and playing of the music, we also have had to deal with a slew of "people management" issues throughout the years. At one point all the original members were replaced by young people and there were many diva/divo problems for years. Eventually people matured but hard feelings remained. Then there were personal problems that some members had and insisted involving everyone in. Then there were issues with the other groups of the church. Though we stayed amongst ourselves, there was also some degree of rivalry between all the groups. Because we were the only group with "professional" musicians (by then both my husband and I were gigging around town) the other groups I think felt threatened by this. Oh, then there was also the issue of some priests not really liking to serve our mass because they weren't into the whole folk music thing. Anyway, in spite of all this drama we stayed true to the group, even though we never received a single cent or even a "thank you" from the parish. We loved the community and the music so much that it didn't matter. We felt that we were both growing as people and serving God at the same time, so what could be better. As the years passed, this feeling diminished somewhat. Maybe it was due to members slowly but surely departing. Regardless when we moved out of the City in 2004, we kept serving the Mass. Even though other members had moved right around the block and used that as an excuse to stop going. Our mass may be "fun" to participate in, but it is a HUGE commitment. It comes smack in the middle of your Sunday (1:00 - 2:30) and when you count set up and take down time you are there from noon to 3. This kind of kills your day (especially for us commuters) since you couldn't do anything before or after. Anyway, we kept going. By this time my husband was no longer as keen on it as I was, but I really needed a connection back to my hometown now that I was living in the "burbs". And so things have remained the past 3-4 years, but slowly even I have started feeling like our time there was up, that we had overstayed our welcome and that the group was ready for another rebirth.

I may have never had the courage to even *think* of leaving were it not for the two big things happening this year: med school and the baby. And actually it's more the school thing that was the beginning of the end. I knew I wanted to go to school in the City because I still miss it and that's where I wish I was. I though of having to commute in every weekday for classes and realized that commuting a 6th day would be ludicrous. One, gas prices are so high these days and two (most importantly) I am going to need a break from the commuting so that I can spend some quality time at home studying or with my husband/child. As the reality of med school drew closer, I realized there was no way I could easily fit my church activity into the mix any longer. Besides, there are a slew of churches here in Westchester, some of which may be a better fit for who I am today (as oppposed to who I growing up). So we told the group that since I'd have to go "on leave" anyway due to the baby, that we would simply not come back. By the time we'd be ready to return it would almost be time for school to start anyway. So the group has known for a while that March 30th would be our "last Mass".

Little did I expect the torrent of emotion I am feeling right now. I never expected it to hurt quite this much. I don't know if it's because it's been my church all my life or if it's that I became too attached to the music. All I know is that when I attended that other Mass today I spent the whole mass tearing up thinking of my Mass. The building, the people, our little corner where we sit at with the instruments. I saw so many years flash by me. Different people who've come and gone. Different priests. The seat where my Mom usually sits at and how much she's changed since 1992. We were unable to find replacements for ourselves because none of the musicians we know are willing to take on the responsibility for no reimbursement. So supposedly the one singer we had left is staying with this semi-responsible younger musician. Who knows how long it will last? I keep thinking of how disappointed the nearly 1000 people who go there will be when they realize we are not coming back. Will they resent my baby thinking it was her "fault"? No one really knows that I am going back to school or what it will entail and that THAT is the real reason I am not going back. That, and a tiny bit of resentment about how we've not been appreciated ever. I realize now that we provided the very best of ourselves that we could and that the result was aesthetic pleasing and professional. It always stings a little to go other places, hear a cacophany, yet see the appreciation of the priests.

Anyway, I just couldn't bear to go today. Because as much as I begged the others not to tell anyone that it was our last mass I have a feeling they were planning some kind of announcement and I would have been mortified because I hate when people use announcements for personal news. I am glad I didn't go because if I cried at this other church I would have surely bawled at ours, knowing it may be the last time (at least officially). If they manage to keep the group going and we have an off week here or there, we would be open to going in to help. That's part of why I didn't want any announcements because then it would be awkward to go back.

How am I supposed to go on without something that's been such a huge part of my life for over 15 years?? I thought it would be easy to find a church here and set up a contract and start getting paid for our services. But now I realize it may not really feel right. There are a lot of other feelings/issues going on that I think I've been covering up with the music all these years.

Regardless, today is the official end of an era. What once was, will no longer be. Ever again. And for now all I can think of doing is mourn for it.

Goodbye, my lifelong friend. I hope I've done the right thing.

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