Monthly Archives: December 2011
Yesterday I ate Raclette for the first time. If you, like me, had lived a life without knowing about this eating experience let me briefly enlighten you. It is a Swiss dish with potatoes, cheese, pickles and other side dishes. Raclette cheese is melted and then poured over the potatoes and repeated. I was informed that a perfect bite includes a bit of potatoes, cheese, pickle, and individual seasoning. They were correct, it is a tasty dish. How I found myself eating Raclette is another story and one founded in Christian community.
My dear friend Gini died two days before Christmas, just four days shy of her 96th birthday. The last days were a mix of sadness and joy as it was clear she was near the end and her body was shutting down. Thankfully she was not in pain. The important words had been said and I think that is the story of much of Gini’s life. She had a gift not only to listen but to give wise council through conversation, words of scripture, and writing. Gini was known to engage in the hard conversations. She would sometimes preface a hard conversation with knowing she might lose her friendship over saying what was on her heart but was willing to risk it. I personally believe it only made her relationships deeper. She also loved to have discussions about the arts and culture and always where faith intersects with them.
I found myself the past couple of days spending time with Gini’s friends from her years as a staff member at the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Reminiscing included snowy days, good conversations, years of correspondence, and where they and their friend’s journeys have taken them. These were glimpses of conversations that could go on for hours. There were discussions of social justice, health care, economics, science, art and aging all through a lens of faith. I was welcomed into this community over the past few days and for that I am profoundly grateful as it has helped the grieving and healing.
What I don’t want to miss is how not only this community brought me into their fold but also how I might do that for others. It can be so difficult at times feeling welcome and moving from outsider to feeling welcome and even an insider. Though I didn’t live through those “hippie” years with them (their words) they included me in the stories and provided me with the back stories. They shared with me the experiences that they had together on the hills in Switzerland telling me of more friends who would offer hospitality to me that also knew our dear Gini. They shared food, warmth, and hospitality.
There was a moment when I realized all of these individuals are single, some always and some more recently. This made the Raclette experience even more powerful. Raclette is a community eating experience the grills are designed for many to participate. I am thankful that they don’t seem to make Raclette grills for one and it seems a metaphor for how we are to live life, in community.
Today my dear friend Gini is exhausted and uncomfortable she is 2 weeks away from reaching 96 and is ready to be with Jesus. She is a Great Soul. Today there was little she could focus on or receive comfort from. I read/prayed with her from “Great Souls at Prayer” a compilation of prayer by Mary W. Tileston. Her copy is well worn with personal notes and meaningful phrases underlined.
December 12th: “Most Loving Lord, I offer my whole self unto Thee. Take, I pray Thee, into the hands of Thine unspeakable pity, both my soul and body, my senses words and actions; vouchsafe in all things so to direct and govern me, that I may ever flee every occasion of sin, and may so constantly cleave to Thee and to Thy commandments, that neither life nor death, nor anything which may befall me, may separate me from Thee – Amen” Treasury of Devotion, 1869
The work week came to a close and the to-do list for work and home over the weekend was long. Some was checked off but new items have appeared on the list. It is hard to take time to write and reflect on this stage in my life when I feel there is so much to do.
Downstairs is my dear neighbor who my mind wanders to continually. My focus is to help her finish well. She is receiving support from Hospice of the North Shore. The support and care is wonderful but when she is home the most they come is an hour a day. As I think of her it is clear that our friendship and the proximity of our apartments are not by accident.
Being single, and without kids at this time in my life, is not what I imagined, expected or planned. I don’t always handle this stage in my life with as much grace as I would like. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the work that God had in mind for me. Yet over and over again I think of the coming weeks and there is no other place I would rather be. If I was married I would not be living here (a hope for someday). If I had adopted (a hope to do someday) I would not living here. If I had foster kids (again a hope) I would not be living here. If I had bought a house again of course I would not be living here. Would I be friends with my dear neighbor? Yes I expect I would be in some way. However if many of my dreams, goals, and expectations for my life had been realized at this time I would not have the depth of friendship with my neighbor, nor the proximity. So my journey has taken a twist I never imagined and I would not have written the story another way. One of my closest friends time here is coming to an end.
I went downstairs last night and Gini was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jimmy Stewart would essentially be her contemporary. Though some years it seems to run continually on TV she had never watched the movie in its entirety. This weekend she watched it and it made me ponder what would the world be like without her. Who has she touched and how? How has she touched me? Gini’s depth of care and willingness to have hard conversations is amazing. Many times heartfelt words have been shared verbally and in notes. I wouldn’t be the same nor would many of the women she has taught for decades in Bible Classes nor would the students she walked alongside of in the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. There would have been much less music in this world without Gini.
Don’t miss the story of It’s a Wonderful Life for yourself and for those you love this Advent season.