ERROL CASTENS: Memories, happy and otherwise, cushion us against the hardness of life

The way my wife cried over those cloths, you'd think she was holding the Shroud of Turin.

We were about to replace the kitchen floor, and I had decided to deepen the window seat that also serves as storage space for seldom-used gadgets and utensils. (The extra storage was to be a birthday present for Sue; ordinarily, I take on carpentry projects with about the same enthusiasm with which I would subject myself to lashings and piercings.)

Trying to decipher just how much space I needed to leave between the wall and the seat/lid, I asked her how thick the upholstery and padding were around the edge of the original.

She didn't remember, she said, so I started pulling staples to loosen the fabric for a measurement.

When the heavy blue-and-beige checked tweed that had endured so well the last several years was peeled back, a similar blue with pinpoint dots in the same off-white hue appeared.

Sue gasped, and the waterworks began.

“Oh, my goodness!” she exclaimed. “I'd forgotten what was under there.” The blue-with-cream-microdots was on there when we'd met. We thought about the candlelit supper her friend Ashley had prepared for us the second time I'd ever visited.

Sue recalled some of the now-nearly-grown children she'd brought home from Happy House to visit in that era, and how so-and-so loved to cuddle up with her and a book on the window seat to share the sunset. The lightweight sheeting also reminded us how extremely lean our finances had been early on – so lean we lived with the faded fabric several more years.

I pulled a few more staples and found yet another cloth underneath. This time the dam really overflowed, as the crimson cloth with its cream specks brought to mind times before I was part of Sue's life. She thought of her late husband and the joy they'd felt in adapting the house to fit them and his three teenage boys. She recalled how even the window seat was full when practically her whole congregation surrounded her in the first hours of her much-too-young widowhood.

The microdotted blue was still on the cushion the night she heard a prowler outside the kitchen and called the sheriff's office, only to find the goat fence was down and one of the kids -wanting human company as much as she did -had climbed atop the air conditioner unit to look in from the dark.

The patchwork-quilt pattern beneath the red evoked yet more tears. It had symbolized Sue's long-ago excitement about her first taste of country living just after she and Carl had managed to buy the long-vacant house. They'd liberated the overgrown lawn, milled trees into fences for the newly cleared pasture and added the original window seat, beginning what had seemed such an idyllic lifestyle.

As Sue stood and remembered, she thought again of Mary, the wise and patient friend whose spiritual substance – even in the face of hardships and her own mortality – had largely inspired Sue's journey of faith.

Out of context, these layers of linens were mere throwaway scraps. Certainly they would have engendered no one else's tears. Seen with understanding eyes, though, they reminded us how many people and happenings – so varied, all adding some unique element -God weaves into “the fabric of our lives.”

Errol Castens is the Daily Journal religion editor. Contact him at errol.castens@djournal.com or 678-1586.