When I visited my mother-in-law at her assisted living, we talked about the passing of seasons. Besides the obvious winter season of November and Thanksgiving, we discussed the particular seasons of life.
Her season now includes living in the beautiful and secure setting of assisted living where she is surrounded by those who help her remember when lunch is served and when it is time to visit the hair salon.
Her nails have grown long and are carefully manicured because her daughters make sure she receives that treat. I remember her as the hard-working housewife during a previous season, puttering around her kitchen with brittle fingernails thrust into dishwater several times a day.
But life is different now. She has no dishes to wash and no floors to scrub, so she grows her nails long and chooses any color she likes for the nail tech who paints them. I am glad for her this tiny yet significant joy.
I accompany her to lunch and as we visit, I see the faces of my past. The father of one of my high school friends holds himself erect even as he slowly makes his way to the lunch buffet. I remember the quiet dignity of this aging saint, the way he encouraged us to sing and pray and trust. His hair, once a flaming red, now reflects over 80 years of pigment change while wrinkles line the face that once smiled at us from a left side pew, half-way down in the sanctuary.
Another gentleman recognizes me and I him. He once worked the land even as my father did. I remember one harvest when my family had to leave the fields to attend the funeral of my uncle.
While we were gone, this farmer gathered his family together, left his own fields untended and cut our family’s wheat. A necessary kindness that farmers often presented to their neighbors – a way to pay it forward. They knew we would reciprocate if they ever needed the same kindness.
This man stands before me and explains that his Thanksgiving this year was sad. A second son has preceded him to heaven – the backwards motion of life that tragically surprises, reminding us there are no guarantees no matter what our age. Each day is precious and can never be retrieved.
I understand the grief behind his eyes, yet he still smiles – a reminder that our shared faith reaches much farther than the cemetery.
Another saint eats in the dining room, and I recognize the gracious woman who once served in various hospitality ministries. She is now confined to a wheelchair and the daughter who tends her wears the same smile, bearing resemblance not only to the physical family traits but also to the holy inhabitant within.
My mother-in-law finishes her lunch, and I manage to snag a piece of pecan pie for her, remembering her own pecan pies during past seasons. I could never replicate her pecan pie, even when I explicitly followed the recipe.
The seasons of the past flow around me in the aging faces of faith – these elders who passed on to a young girl the importance of church attendance and scripture memory, the joy of interceding for each other as we responded in worship together.
I feel gratitude for the examples of these saints, these living images of the Hebrews 11 heroes who whispered advice through the ages. These are the folks who now wait out their timelines in assisted living while I continue in the ministry of my current season.
One season blends into another and each season is affected by the weather of the previous, just as the faith behaviors of these aged saints once affected me.
I can only hope that my life is also a favorable influence on the generations younger than I who may someday visit me in the winter season of my life.
©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1
Photo by Chalmers Butterfield