Sunday began with Church. We picked up S. at his group home and drove him to Glen Avon Prez. He is in his eighties He’s tiny, autistic, barely communicative and his head juts out ninety degrees forwards from his shoulders. When we first began attending Glen Avon S. drove his mother to church. Today, at least in the temperate months, he still drives a bicycle around town. Until recently he traveled all over town. Claudia and I are part of a group of four families that alternate taking him to church on different Sunday’s of the month.

During our service I raised my hand to have my Aunt Mary, My Dad’s little sister, remembered for prayers. I was told a few days ago that she had been placed in hospice with only days remaining.

Aunt Mary was my Dad’s little sister. She was about 14 when my parent’s married but she always loomed large in my memory. When I went to the basement of my grandmother’s home I would always see the life-sized poster of her that was created when she ran for “May Queen” at my Dad’s college. By the time she was a Queen candidate my Dad was in Washburn’s law school on the GI Bill. He did his best to help his little sister win the competition by placing the poster in the Law School Building and coaxing his fellow future attorneys to vote in an election these older students rarely bothered with. My Aunt won.

When I came along Mary called me “Treensie.” This was long before I grew to six-foot-two. Once I was married Aunt Mary began calling me every December to wish me “Happy Birthday.” “Is this Treensie,” she would ask and I always replied in the deepest basso profundo voice I could muster, “This is Treensie.”

I got her last such call a few weeks. She was uncharacteristically late. She was calling from the hospital and wanted to make amends for her tardiness. It was a brief conversation. She was about to have a huge tumor removed and mostly wanted to keep the tradition of the phone call alive. A short time later I learned of the operation and called her back only to discover that she couldn’t handle a long call. Other family members let me know of her deteriorating condition. So on Sunday I, an unrepentant agnostic, asked my fellow church members to keep my Aunt Mary’s family in their prayers just as I had done the previous December when my Uncle Frank, the middle child, was in the same situation.

After church we had lunch and we brought our grandchildren back to our house. They would stay overnight because they had the next day, MLK Jr. Day, off of school. Their Mother would teach. A little later that afternoon Claudia and I picked up S. again for a second special worship service. It was at the Peace Church and was for handicapped folks like S. These services are put by CHUM (Central Hillside United Ministry) the consortium of 40 Duluth area churches that also sustains the homeless shelter.

Claudia and I had been asked to offer up our theatrical talents to portray Simeon and Anna who met the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem to welcome him to the Jewish world. Glen Avon was responsible for the service while a French River church cooked the dinner that followed.

The Vikings playoff game began while we were at Peace Church and was two thirds over by the time we arrived home. On our trip home the game changed from a comfortable lead for the Vikes to the beginning of a Saint’s turnaround. We got home in time to watch the remarkable twists and heart thumping turns until the final ten second miracle. Like the rest of Minnesota our screams pierced the night.

I checked my phone shortly afterward and discovered a family member had made a couple of calls to me while I had my phone muted during the Church service. The payers for my Aunt Mary’s family would be needed more than ever. She died shortly before the Vikings had taken the field.