I had settled into a spot next to Shan in a pew near the front of the church. Dave and other friends were behind us, in the wheelchair accessible seating.
Next to me, as I sat down, I noticed a lavender umbrella, and on the floor a matching purse. A few minutes later, their owner, a slightly built, older woman, with short white hair, arrived, carrying cushions to soften the unyielding wood of the well polished pews.
Seeing the crowd of us that had arrived with Dave and Joe, she began to gather her belongings, "To make more space for the people," she said.
I insisted that she stay, pointing out, "You are one of the people!" And she yielded, sitting down beside me after all, and turning out to be a lively and entertaining pew mate, who provided a running commentary throughout the service.
The church was celebrating its 39th anniversary that week, and giving out medals too, to members who were celebrating 10, 20, 25 or 30 years of attendance (of which there were quite a few!)
About those she knew, she quietly confided details. "His husband was my best friend," she whispered about one man. And she told me that she herself had attended the church for over 30 years.
I bowed my head automatically as Reverend Hawkes announced the death by suicide of a full time staff member at a local outreach to transgender-ed people, and my chatty companion whispered, "Volunteer, not staff member," while simultaneously handing me a Kleenex.
At the start of the service she had told me her name, but as I usually have to hear a name several times before it sinks in, I promptly forgot it. I wish I had remembered it, but lacking a name in my aging brain, she will remain forever in my memory, the Lady with Lavender Accessories.
To be continued...