On Wednesday I sneezed myself awake with a singular sneeze.
I’ve been sleeping on the basement couch these past few days, having picked up a bug from a family member.
The sneeze was super nasty–the kind of sneeze you sneeze after you’ve been sick for a couple of days and, at night, your sinuses are like, “If we WORK TOGETHER we can produce even more mucus!! Let’s DO IT!”
Also, it gave me a bloody nose.
At noon I was supposed to read the Bible aloud. At Ash Wednesday mass. With the Archbishop there. At a mass with probably 400 people.
So, obviously, all morning I was praying a very sincere prayer from the depths of my heart that went, “Dear God, PLEASE do not let me get a bloody nose when I’m reading at mass in front of the Archbishop.”
And then I stuffed my sleeve full of Kleenex and cough drops. Because I’m a professional.
As the mass approached, things were going OK, it seemed.
I got in formation.
Everyone sang the opening song. I went and sat near where I was supposed to sit.
The first guy went up to read the first reading.
And, out of no where, I was struck with the worst cough I have ever coughed in my life, which was quite a feat considering the Toledo Opera House Carmen disaster back in the late 90’s.
And I was up front. And there was no way for me to run to the side sacristy, because that was on the other side of (1) the Archbishop (2) the tabernacle (3) the altar (4) THE WORLD, OKAY?!
Driest throat of all time. Tickle-y-est tickle like the Great Barrier Reef in my esophagus. No water anywhere.
I tried holding my breath. The cough seeped out of my eyes in the form of tears that probably ruined the makeup I had applied special for the occasion. I mentioned that at least two newspapers and three television stations were covering this mass, right? With footage to be displayed across metro-Detroit all day long? I mentioned that, right?
I yanked a cough drop out of my sleeve, fiddled with the cellophane and jammed that sucker in my mouth. News flash: when your mouth is dry, hard candies aren’t as soothing. They just kind of bang against your teeth.
Ash Wednesday 2016.
May it go down in history as the day I had a coughing fit in front of God and the Archbishop and everybody.
Sweet, sweet humility.
I did recall, though, as I thought about my day that night, that God was faithful. I never did get that bloody nose.