It’s a good turnout for a morning Mass service at the Irish church on the top of the hill. Though, as usual, I am the only person under 40…perhaps the only under 50. I’m accustomed to these demographics, though. Everyone is spread out through the center of the church. Like a teacher walking past the empty desks in the front rows, our priest has to walk half-way down the aisle to give the homily. I’m delighted to smile at my fellow churchgoers when we wish each other “Peace.” Few people are close enough to shake hands, so we wave across the rows. We turn forward and back, making eye contact and holding up two fingers in the V of peace, like tourists in front of a landmark.
An older man with his flannel shirt tucked into his jeans greets his neighbors and gives the peace sign off to an unaccompanied spot on his right. He nods where no one sits. He pats the empty railing next to his hand–missing someone, feeling a presence, paying a tribute to one who used to sit so close. I notice how he prays with his shoulder turned slightly toward the vacant place at his side, and I really do wish him peace.