The skies were still dark when we woke up on Easter Sunday. Mr. Jones had to be up in LA early for his next tour, so he was already in his uniform when I rolled out of bed to rouse the kids. It didn't take much to wake them. I just had to say, "Come on you guys... we need to get there before the crowd."
We all knew the kind of crowd that gathers wherever Bethany Hamilton goes. We didn't want to miss out on seeing her again. I was still struggling with the request we got from our pastor. He asked regular attenders to park at the school down the street, go to the first or last service, and to sit in the overflow section in the loft. The parking and service times were not a big deal, but watching a live stream versus being in the sanctuary to see Bethany live... that was a tough one.
Especially since we'd been waiting for Bethany for so long!
Mr. Jones' Uber car came to pick him up around 6:15. He kissed us goodbye as we all headed out the door; him to the train and us to church. Later at church, a friend would say, "But it's a holiday! Doesn't he get holidays?" I had to remind him that planes fly every day. Besides... we're used to it. Being married to a pilot means that we may not always get to spend the holidays together, but we got to see him for a moment before he left for the week.
We watched the sun rise as we drove up and over the hill towards the church. I still hadn't decided if we were going to ignore the request and go into the sanctuary. I expected to see tons of cars at the overflow parking lot, but we were one of the first ones to arrive. On the shuttle bus that was to take us up to the church, I asked the other adults what they were going to do. They all said they'd be watching the live stream from the loft.
Damn it. No enablers on the bus.
We got up to the church and saw that there was no line. There were only volunteers running around working. I found my friend that's in charge of the children's programs and asked how we could help before heading in to the service. While we filled snack cups with goldfish and put paint on paper plates, the crowd began to arrive. We watched them as they headed in; a trickle at first, and then a flood. We finished up helping to set up the classroom and went out to figure out where we'd be sitting. My daughter was pleading to go into the sanctuary. I hemmed and hawed and then finally said, "Okay, whatever... let's just go in." We walked up to the doors just as the Executive Pastor shut them and said,
"The sanctuary is full."
ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
So we walked up to the loft with the overflow crowed. I thought, well, maybe this is how it should go. We should let others go before us. We should be givers. We should, we should, we should... and then I just started regretting not going in. We sat at the front of the room where the live broadcast was. As expected, it wasn't the same.
I started overnoodling our situation. We had brunch reservations at 12:30, so if we were going to go to a later service to see Bethany live, we had to ignore not only one but TWO requests made of regulars. If we were going to go into the sanctuary, we'd have to go to one of the two middle services. After too much hand-wringing, I leaned over to my daughter and told my plan. She would leave half way through the live stream to get in line. I could leave during the final song, grab my son, and meet her in line. When it came time for her to leave, her anxiety took over for a second and she froze. CRAP! When this kid freezes, it's all over! I said,
She unfroze and made her way out to get in line. When it came my turn to leave, I had two thoughts: A) I hope she's not at the end of the two hour long line, and B) I hope our pastor doesn't see us.
When I walked out, I saw that she had somehow managed to get to the front door. There wasn't a line, but more of a mostly patient crowd gathered at the doors. Somehow, I managed to find my son without any trouble. He had just walked out of his class as I was walking down from the loft. We both met up with my daughter and found other regular attendees that were ignoring the polite requests of the staff, too.
The doors opened and after allowing the first service crowd to get out, my daughter and a couple of her girlfriends wiggled in and bolted straight to the front row. My son and I found a couple of seats right behind her. We sat just a few feet away from the stage where Bethany was going to be.
The sanctuary was buzzing with excitement.
We didn't get to meet her. She didn't autograph any pictures or books. We didn't get to take a selfie with her. But we did get to see her live and listen to her talk about overcoming the challenges of life. Her indomitable spirit is simply amazing. Who loses an arm to a shark attack and knows with all her being that it's for a higher purpose? I looked over at my daughter who was looking up at her in quiet admiration. It took a few years, but she got to see her role model in person.
Bethany's family was also in attendance. Seated just a few chairs over from us was her husband. The two have been married for just under two years and are expecting a baby in the next couple of months. They talked about how they met and how they respected each other's desire to remain pure before marriage. They also talked about their appearance on the Amazing Race and how they both loved on each other more on their tougher challenges. They have each other's backs in every way.
It was a great message for my kids to hear and I think it had a greater impact because they got to see Bethany speak those words right in front of them. Before they left the stage, Pastor Jason prayed for them and the safety of their future child. I spent the rest of the service avoiding eye contact with him, which was hard to do, considering we were sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. I was happy that my kids got to be there to see Bethany in the flesh... but I was still feeling guilty about ignoring the requests.
The things you do for your kids...
On our way out, my son said something I had been thinking: "All this time we've been chasing Bethany, and we ended up seeing her at our own church." It's a lot like life, isn't it? You can go all over the world looking for something only to find it right back at home. My daughter got to meet her role model at the very same spot she first learned her story.
It was a great lesson for all of us.
Oh! And we made it to brunch on time... just the three of us. I was bummed that Mr. Jones wasn't there and that my mom decided she still needed to do some more obsessive cleaning before her cousin came into town for vacation. But before we were even half way through our meal, my mom showed up to sit with us and say hi to the kids. Luckily, we had an extra seat. Then, out of nowhere, I see a man in a pilot's uniform that looked strikingly similar to Mr. Jones. It WAS Mr. Jones! He had flown into Carlsbad and had a few hours to spare before taking passengers on to the next city. We ended up with a crowded but cozy table filled with love and a great new tale to add to our family history.
It was pretty much one of the best Easter Sundays ever.