This blog post has been a long time in coming. It was months ago when the lilacs were in bloom that it began to bud in my heart. I don’t own a lilac bush. Someday when I own a home it’s on my list. I grew up in a home where there were 2 lilac bushes. I remember cutting some early in the morning, wrapping the stems in wet paper towels and bring bunches to my elementary school teachers. As a side note I can’t imagine I thought this up on my own and believe I must have been copying one of my fellow schoolmates.
What happens though when you’re an adult, don’t own a lilac tree and love fresh cut lilacs in your home? What happens when your dear neighbor in her 90’s who lives in her own lilac-less apartment loves lilacs as well? It’s clear you must find and acquire enough to spread the aroma through not one but two apartments. So each spring I set out to my usual locations to see if the lilacs are plentiful. There is a spot where I need to walk ½ a mile down a path and bend the upper branches down to retrieve the lilacs reaching for the sun. A town park down the road has planted a few bushes in the last few years. I assist the town in pruning. A few miles away there is a home with at least 50 feet worth of lilac bushes planted like a fence between their yard and the sidewalk. I believe the sidewalk is public property and therefore so are the lilacs. A new location was found this year on what I thought was a state park, since that time I’m still debating if it is private property. I feel a little strange about the next location, a cemetery. But I go and prune a bit there as well. Each time, especially at the cemetery, I step back to see if I have taken too much and each time there seems to be plenty and the bunches in my hand don’t make a difference to the bush but only to me. At the cemetery I wonder who loved lilacs so much to have a bush planted for them.
I talked with my dear neighbor Gini about the lilacs once. I admitted to her that it took me some scouting and possibly even some stealing. She didn’t want me to steal but the joy she received from the lilacs was worth it. It makes me wonder why anyone would plant flowers and not want to share them. This year I only had to steal lilacs for one. I thought of Gini the entire time. Though I have always wanted a lilac bush mine will be planted in her honor.
In September I turned 40. For my birthday it was easy to acknowledge that I don’t need or want for anything materially. Yet, I’ll be honest, I do like gifts. I enjoy it when someone chooses a personal gift for me. It is not about the size or cost of the gift but really the thought. A collectible item found at a yard sale, a picture, book, recipe, a new piece of sports equipment, etc., I love them all. Yet again there was nothing I needed or wanted so I thought why not ask friends and family to give to an organization that is on the front lines of working to solve the water crisis in the world. Having travelled to places in the world where clean water is an issue this seemed right. It’s always bothered me on trips that I drink clean water because I can afford it while others go without. So I raised funds toward clean water through Charity Water.
What happened was that each time my email alerted me to a new donation there was incredible joy. What I found that friends and family far and wide joined in celebrating my birthday in a different way, in a way that was deeply personal to me. Each donation was as precious as a collectible item, a picture, book, personal recipe or piece of sports equipment. Each made me smile when I thought of both the good that the donation would make to help bring clean water, but also the relationship I had with that person. What especially touched me was that a few of the young woman I have had the pleasure of knowing in their high school years through church joined in helping me celebrating my 40th. As young leaders they understand this water crisis and want to do something about it. Thank You Charity Water for your birthday present to me!
My neighbor and more importantly close friend and mentor is 95. Generally she has been in good health, but she’s 95! She’s an amazing woman who has a depth to her relationships, both with others and God, that is remarkable. I visited with her in the hospital yesterday as there has been concern with her blood pressure. When I arrived she was watching 60 Minutes and had books surrounding her to pass the time. Her well-worn Bible was on her bed tucked next to a book by Henri Nouwen on reflections of Life and Death. I should add there was a fiction book on Cleopatra as well which happens to be the name of her cat. Gini makes me smile. She emails, googles, writes, reads, studies, listens, asks great questions, and prays. I know she prays a great deal for me which is humbling. We have talked about death, her death, and how she is ready to spend eternity with Christ. She said to me one day that she would prefer not to live to 100. She’s ready for the next step in eternity, to have new surroundings.
Gini is a woman of incredible depth whose life has not been easy yet she has allowed it to deepen her understanding of God and how to reach out to others. Gini was an only child, and had a brief marriage but did not have any children. However her life is full of people and there is a loosely jointed group of friends who look after some of her needs. She’s had a full life living many places on the East Coast, then heading to Colorado, Switzerland, and London. When she visited Egypt I believe she was 92. There were 90 people at her 90th party and it was an honor to be invited. Each of us has had deep rich powerful conversations with Gini as she is thinks deeply about her faith and how to encourage others on their journeys. Though she didn’t have children she plays the role of mother, grandmother, and cherished friend to so many.
Yesterday before I left we prayed together as we often do. Tears come to my eyes even thinking of how tender it is each time we pray. From her hospital bed she prayed for me about the anxieties, joys, and hopes of my heart. We hadn’t talked about them last night yet she knows them from the years of our friendship. I can’t quite imagine living in this house without her. Our friendship has evolved to the point where I let myself in a couple of times a week to check on her and do my laundry. Yet it is her checking on my heart with care and concern and directing us both back to Christ. On my 40 for 40 list is writing a letter to Gini – I don’t want to miss writing that letter.
One last note… Gini asked me once how I came to live in this house, in the apartment above hers. I reminded her of what she had said to me previously. “I prayed for a single Christian woman to move in.” Your prayer was answered Gini and so was mine as I have consistently prayed to have amazing mentors in my life. How God weaves lives together is beyond comprehension.