I don’t normally unwind from the work week nearly weeping at the House of the Lord. Indeed not. On Fridays I spend my time in a house, yes. The basement of a home, actually, off Elm Street that’s owned by a Queen with monks’ blood in her veins.
Once a week this finely-tuned woman lets a handful of mad hatters run the roost for a couple hours as she works a full shift up north, cooking up that bacon with her finest son, Danny Boy.
But there I was in Nashua at the Crossway Christian Church, my bottom lip twitching, my baggy face starting to rumble in the cheeks. I was at a wedding, a second wedding for both parties, and it was a beautiful thing. Breaking tradition with what this born-and-bred Irish-Catholic knows about weddings, the ceremony was familiar in spots, and not so familiar in others. Never did I see my Uncle Bill grab a microphone at my wedding before singing my praises for seven minutes, sniffling all over himself. He was probably home watching the Bruins anyways.
One after another, midway through the ceremony, a new person was reaching for the mic, all ages too, each paying tribute to the newlyweds and their Savior. My last count stood at 15 people who were willing to hang it all out in front of God, family, friends and strangers – sharing, caring and pleading – letting Pam and Mike know exactly what they mean to them, to the church, to the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God, you’re damn right.
Because what happened 45 minutes after this love fest occurred in front of my eyes, I paid witness to the other side of paradise, the one that’s just waiting for your arrival, throwing boulders in the road, hurrying things along.
If you remember, last Friday was an ugly night, cold and drizzling throughout. Visibility not great, but we’ve all driven in much worse. Regardless of the steady rain and random patches of fog, nobody should be driving down Blodget Street in Manchester at night, going 40, heading straight into a red light. But, that’s what was happening.
There was a Mercedes, and it was going at a good clip, heading down the hill toward Maple Street. The light was red, the night was dark, the road was wet. I know cause I was only 50 yards behind the vehicle, heading toward the same stop light. I was planning to stop, maybe adjust my pant belt, skip through a CD, try and find that final song before parking the old girl for the night.
Then I started to silently freak out on the inside. Something awful coming. And coming quick. That Mercedes was going straight through that red light, I was sure of it. The only mystery left to unravel was when and if another car was barreling hard and heavy up Maple Street, never guessing the fate they were about to meet.
And then… BAM!!
My head filled up with that unforgettable car-to-car collision sound. There’s nothing really like it. It’s the sound of death and gashes and shattered limbs, blood, glass and loss. The Mercedes went full on into a little SUV. It was white, it was safe looking, it was, you know, like any car you see driven out of Vermont. And the car went spinning, a full rotation. The whole passenger’s side of the vehicle was driven into the backseat, folded, ruptured. The Mercedes was torn up bad in the front, the whole nose broken in, now gliding slowly toward a fire hydrant just past the light.
I about shit myself. I parked my car right at the light and must have looked like a complete maniac, running into the intersection, trusting that the next car coming down Maple Street wasn’t going to welcome me into Paradise too, announcing me as a “Plus one tonight, God. He kind of crashed the rapture.”
Then, in what appeared to be a scene out of a movie, the front door of the Mercedes opened and a young girl stepped out looking like a zombie, trying to cry for help, but only managing to lift her arms, her face telling a terrifying story. The kid was a mess, in shock, for sure, but not bleeding or cut up. The airbags saved her. She was just fucked-up from the crash.
The other car, well, I didn’t even have time to think about them yet. When the crying broke through on the young girl, it was gut-wrenching. The kid was 17, I would learn later, but she looked 13. Like a baby, she was just too pure to be enduring this kind of bullshit. I wanted to eat some of her troubles away. I mean, not all of them. I’ve seen this dream before, and I’m pretty sick of near-death. It’s starting to bore me.
I grabbed her by the arms and sat her down on the wet pavement, just off the road. I reached for my cell phone, never really knowing what pocket it will be in. Or bar it was left at. I was calling 911 and patting the girl’s head, trying to calm her down, but this call was going on-and-on. “Maple! Blodget! Wreckage! Despair! Sure, I can hold….”
And then, from out of the ruins of the other vehicle appeared an angel. I shit you not. Fresh from being practically T-boned, violently tossed and slammed in the collision, an older woman came stumbling over toward us, her arms out wide, reaching for the young girl before taking her immediately into her arms.
The woman took hold of the girl and they both sat on the wet ground, the girl between the woman’s legs, her back to the woman’s chest. The woman was rocking the girl, returning her to earth, calming her down.
Humbling, to say the least, to witness.
The woman’s son, who was also in the car, came walking over, more in a daze what with the big knot on the side of his head, he was doing alright, if not a bit woozy. He went and fetched a red blanket from the car and gave it to his mother, who was still holding the girl tight in her arms, assuring and reassuring that precious little thing that everything was going to be alright. The woman spread the blanket over the girl’s legs and chest, right up to her chin, feeding her warmth, love, covering her from the rainy night.
Who was this woman? Who does that?
So, I don’t know if any of this was a good thing, but I do know that when I left that church in Nashua, something followed me out the door. I had heard the word of the Lord spoken, his praises sang for the last 90 minutes. I felt the love, it was penetrating. But it was the work of the Lord, not the word of the Lord, that walked out of that pile of rubble on this rainy night and did what any saint is sent to do.
To heal and reveal. And that’s one hell of a woman.
Rob Azevedo is a columnist who covers the NH music scene and is host of Granite State of Mind on Friday nights at 7 p.m. on WMNH 95.3 FM, among other things. He can be reached at email@example.com