I spent a few hours last evening with my good friend Audrey at the hospital where she has been for these past few months. Audrey was the first friend I made when I moved over here to the UK. Her husband Peter was Todd's best man when we got married and I was priviledged enough to be able to work with Audrey in the Children's Sunday School program as well as being her Visit Teaching partner for a number of years. She had a stroke the year before we moved back here to Chester and has gone steadily down hill ever since. She and Todd are the same age, 78. We have always celebrated their birthdays together as they are within a few days of each others, and we have always celebrated Peter and mine together for the same reason. They are just good friends.
At first yesterday when Peter called and asked did I want to go and visit Audrey I was somewhat torn about going. Todd wasn't very well yesterday. He was feeling quite giddy all day, probably due to the lack of sleep he has been experiencing. I also wash my hair every Saturday night and it has to be done early because it takes a long time to dry . . . I was tempted to say no, but then I thought about how much I love Audrey (and Peter) and I said yes, I would go with him to spend some time with her.
I felt a bit grumpy after I said yes . . . it really wasn't something I wanted to do. I hate going out at night . . . I always have problems sleeping afterwards if I have been out in the evening. I can't turn my brain off, and then there was the Todd and my hair thing . . . I decided I could just wash my hair at the kitchen sink and then have a shower when I got home from the hospital. I didn't want to have to redo my makeup. (I know I am such a lazy person.) I got a big jug out and a towel and started to wash my hair. My hair is quite long now and it's not easy to wash it at the sink. Plus the way our kitchen is, it is a difficult thing to do anyways . . . stand at the sink and get your head under the tap. I tried my best and I was grumbling in my heart the whole time . . . it was awkward and inconvenient and as hard as I tried I was not able to prevent the water from going all over my face and ruining my makeup anyways. *grumble * grumble . . . and then trying to comb it out. It hurt. It was all tangled from being upside down and manipulated in a way contrary to what it normally is (if that makes sense) and I just had a real struggle to work my comb through it.
I got Todd some supper and then I went off to the hospital with Peter, thinking to myself all the reasons why I really didn't want to be doing this . . . and at the same time feeling quite ashamed for feeling this way. But, I am not a perfect person by any stretch . . . I know that, and God knows that and, the Saviour knows that . . . at the same time I was thinking about how Audrey would be the first one to come to see me, had she still the ability and had I the need . . . We got to the hospital. She looked so frail sitting in the bed, but her eyes were sparkling and bright and I knew that my being there had cheered her up to no end. Once again I felt ashamed for having not wanted to go . . . I held her frail hand in mine and we sat and talked for two hours. Well, I did most of the talking. She has dementia and so she doesn't have a lot of conversation, but I can talk for England and I did.
I mostly talked about things from the past years that we had done together . . . like the first time we met, and about the experiences we had had serving in Primary (The children's Sunday School) together. I told her how, with me being a new member of the church as I was when I first started working with her, she had set the bar and standard for me of how to do things properly, and what a good example she had set. How she had shown me the standard to reach for in all things . . . and in her example of always doing her best at everything which was asked for us to do, her patience with the children, her tolerance of their antics, her always being diligent in her Visit Teaching. Her patience and long suffering had taught me a lot about the right way to do things rather than the wrong.
I talked about our holiday we took to France together and how much we had enjoyed those couple of weeks. There are not a lot of people you could go on a holiday with and stay friends throughout and afterwards, but we managed to do just that. We stayed in a beautiful stone cottage out in the French countryside in the Dorgogne area of the south of France. It was surrounded with farm fields and vineyards. There were sheep in the field right next to the cottage and we had the most beautiful weather the whole time we were there. Our days were spent hiking through the countryside and visitng chateaux and other beautiful spots. One day we went to the Dunes in the Aquitaine . . . and we tried to climb to the top of them . . .
The Dune du Pyla is Europe's highest sand dune. What a chore it was to try to get to the top. Walking in sand is never easy anyways, but walking up hill in sand is really hard. You take two steps forward and two steps back all the way. We (and by that I mean mostly me, but Audrey was remembering these things) talked about that experience, and then about another day where we had hiked around a large lake, and the stray dog had kept us company the whole way. Trotting along side of us like a special guide, he was with us throughout the hike and shared our picnic with us at the end of it all. He had personality. It was on that hike that I first heard a cuckoo in my life's recollection and it sounded just like the clock. We recollected the amusement park we had gone to that was deserted, but how we had laughed at ourselves in the funny mirrors which made us alternately really short, really tall and really wide . . . and about the visit we had made on another day to a Buddist Monastery. We had asked the monks for a drink of water and this most accomodating little monk had trotted out to our car carrying a box filled with bottles of soda and all sorts. He would not let us pay for it. It was at the Monastery that I was able to stand in a grove of bamboo and hear the sticks of bamboo clinking against each other in the light breeze . . .
We took a 13 km hike another day through the countryside with only a primitave map to follow, our senses, and a bag of sandwiches and some drinks. Anyone who knows me knows I have a great fear of getting lost, so I was really out of my comfort zone on that one. It was amazing though . . . I smelled wild garlic beneath out feet, a first time experience, and we ate our lunch sitting on the side of a stone bridge with our feet dangling down over a babbling brook . . . we saw caterpillars crossing the road in a long snake, nose to tail and were amazed at the sight. So many memories from that walk and I was able to jog her memory on all of them.
We giggled at Todd and Peter's attempts at cutting wood for the fire in our cottage, and how they had thought a sheep in the field next to the cottage was dying or at the least very ill and so had rushed to the farmer's house to knock on his door and tell him, only to be told in return that the sheep was giving birth. It was so good to see Audrey smile and hear her laugh . . .
WE spent another day in the medieval town of St Emilion, with cobbled streets that were almost perpendicular . . . what a chore it was both going down and coming back up them. But we had a lovely time, got a great workout and enjoyed some of the most delicious canneles I have ever eaten . . .
We went down into the crypt of the cathedral and into a wine cellar . . . enjoyed the nicest cold drink under a hot sun in a cafe . . .
I just know that as I was retelling these things that
Audrey was living them again
Our playing card games in the evening next to the fire as we watched the news on the French Television . . . Britain and the allies had invaded Iraq and were taking down Saddam Hussein in front of our eyes as the logs snapped and crackled next to us. Every now and then a spark would fly out of the fire and we would have to stamp it out so that it didn't catch . . .
My favourite part of that whole holiday was the day we drove to Lourdes in France and visited the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes. Lourdes is the site where a young girl Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary eighteen times. It is a place of healing and pilgrimage. We had taken a picnic with us and we sat at picnic tables outside the grounds to eat it. A Dwarf made our acquaintance and was quite friendly with us . . . and then we had toured the church and the grotto, etc. doing all of the touristy things . . . I lit a candle for my Aunt Thelma who was ill in hospital. We decided to hike the Way of the Cross which was sitated on a hillside next to the Basilica, in the shadows of the Great Pyrenees. What a feat that was . . .
For 2000 years Christians have followed the path Jesus took towards Calvary. Because everyone could not go to the Holy City, the practice arose, in the Middle Ages, of representing these 15 stations in Churches and Chapels as well as in the open air like it was at Lourdes. This devotion is carried out in a spirit of penance and reparation for forgiveness for sins.
We walked up and around this hillside taking in the statuary at each station and thinking about what the Saviour had done for us. It was a grueling walk, and hot and very hard . . . we were and are none of us Catholics, but we felt the spirit of the Atonement there and perhaps even in a small way a portion of what the Saviour had done for each of us . . .
The two hours I spent at the hospital last night flew by and I reckon I did the most talking throughout that time as I held Audrey's hand and watched the sparkle in her blue eyes, but in the end it was I who felt I had been given a gift. What a priviledge it was to be able to spend that time with this very elect lady. I am so very grateful for that . . . because in all of the remembrance, I was able to put aside my cares and to just enjoy spending time with a much beloved friend, and to feel blessed in her presence. I am not sure if that makes sense or not, and I am not even sure if I have explained it correctly, but the time was filled with love and a beautiful spirit and I am still basking in the glow of it this morning. It was hard to say goodbye when it was time to come home. Little bird . . . she reminded me of a sweet little bird sitting in her bed with her little stocking cap on her head and her sparkling blue eyes and sweet smile. I must try to get Todd to come with me to visit her again in the coming week.
As I sit here on this sunny Easter Sunday morning I am so very grateful for these lessons life teaches us, and for the opportunities which are presented to us where we can serve others. I testify that we will be blessed in our giving, no matter how small the gift may seem, but I also testify that the blessings we receive will be predicated upon the attitude we carry with us as we serve. God does indeed love a cheerful giver.
Today I am humbled also by the greatest service and gift which was ever given and the greatest example in that of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave His all for each of us. If He could do what He did, unflinchingly and with love . . . how much more can I . . . and should I be doing . . .
If in this life only
we have hope in Christ,
we are of all men most miserable,
But now is Christ risen from the dead
and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death,
By man also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
Even so in Christ shall all be made Alive.
1 Corinthians 15:19-22
In the English Kitchen today, Perfect Deviled Eggs and the basic cake recipes for the two cakes I baked, a Kentucky Butter Cake and Easter Basket Cake.
Have a lovely Sunday. Happy Easter. He's alive! Don't forget . . .
═══════════ ღೋƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒღೋ ═══════════ ⊰✿░G░O░D⊰✿⊰L░O░V░E░S⊰✿⊰░Y░O░U░⊰✿
═══════════ ღೋƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒღೋ ═══════════
And I do too!