Her words hit.
She probably would have kept her word thrusts to herself if she’d known the impact would leave a mark for the better part of my next forty-eight hours. I came close to speaking about it on the way home later that morning but there was christmas snow falling and the woods blurring through tears choking.
I get out of bed hard. The drive through hill and dale is long.
I just want coffee. I am bone weary this morning at a church outreach and think I can probably manage friendliness but nothing more. Keep an arm’s length and serve eggs.
I forget so quickly that this is precisely the moment when God stretches me and makes me go limp and my heart go broke.
She comes up behind me as I fill my cup. Hair all spiral brown and gray twining around a wool cap looking like a Narnia creature in green and brown tweed. She is made for winter.
I have five. And two grandchildren.
Five? And you have grandchildren?
Her words start spilling…about some people getting it right by having all those kids, so many that they can spare some, you know, if…..
Slow of mind and body, I keep thinking, What do I have to give this woman? Is my listening enough?
Look at that one. Isn’t she beautiful?
She points to a little girl holding used up plates, little but with a lithesomeness peeking beautiful.
I answer this quiet. I am still thinking about how tired I am.
The Narnia woman looks crinkle -eyed deep into mine.
I lost my little girl. She was fourteen. She died the day before she got to go on her Make A Wish trip.
In the face wake up. There are hurting people here.
My breath catches first and the tired drains second.
And her words keep spilling. Spill and spill and spill all over me and my stupid coffee cup and my selfish tired body.
She tells me she makes angels out of wide christmas ribbon because her little girl saw an angel in the corner of the room on her last day. She told her mother to just believe and that it was going to be okay.
She spills her confession of making a deal with the devil, but then she took it back when the angel visited. When something like that happens, you just know that you know it’s going to be all right. I should probably go to church.
I choke back the hardness forming in my throat and manage to invite her to come to a service.
Come Christmas Eve.
She smiles. I hope my son changes his mind about having children. He’s just scared. You know….with everything that’s happened. He’s all I have now and I want grandchildren…so I hope….I have to go. Where is my friend?
She turns from me for a moment to scan the room and then turns back to face me with crinkle eyes smiling and tears running. She says good bye and that maybe she will see me.
I go quiet for the rest of the day. The next morning I light the first candle of Advent, the one called Hope, and think of another time angel visited, punching the heavens with his announcement and the shepherds going straight away to Bethlehem because when something like this happens, you just know that you know He has finally come to make it all right.