She never ventures far from home. Never has. She has a small, comfortable route that encompasses the few familiar destinations she frequents – church, the pharmacy, the grocery store, and the restaurant where they have the buffet with the greatest variety of vegetables she enjoys. She moves a lot slower than in the past, but the days are hers to do with what she will with no one to rush her along and her leisurely pace still gets her where she’s going. She relishes the freedom and independence she still has even when her bones dictate the plans for the day. She’s never been one to wallow in self-pity or entertain discontentment for very long. At least not that I remember.
Now a widow, she eats alone. After years of preparing and serving meals, many of those years surrounded by the cacophony of children, the quiet is alright with her. She misses those years, she misses her husband, but accepts with much grace the life she now has. She doesn’t eat fast. Never has. She always times her arrival at the restaurant to be after the lunch crowd has come and gone. It is easier to serve herself this way, and of course, quieter. It was in this consistent pattern of activity that the young manager took notice of her. I’m sure he recognized a good thing – the most faithful and loyal customer he had! But it was more than that. He was moved with a compassion for this one who slowly ate alone time and time again.
He began to stop by her table each time she was there to check on her. Small talk. Week after week they interacted and week after week they got to know a little bit more about each other. He learned that she is widowed and that is the reason she sits alone. She learned that he has a young wife and a little girl and big dreams for his future. Slowly a new friendship evolved. He began to take the time to sit with her for a few minutes as often as possible. Conversation became easy between them; well, as easy as communication can be between a young Cambodian man with his rapid, broken English and an old woman who doesn’t hear as well as she used to. (The opportunity to sit and observe these exchanges is a source of great amusement for me….)
Their conversations covered many topics and eventually came to their faiths. She is a Christian and he is a Buddhist. They’ve had many a question and answer session as they have endeavored to understand the basis of each other’s beliefs. They listen to each other. Really listen. She is passionate about the truth of Jesus, but lovingly patient as she plants the seeds. She is sensitive and respectful and places no pressure on him to convert nor condemnation for maintaining his differing belief. She just loves him. And he loves her. He as adopted her as his American grandmother and she considers him one of her own. This makes me smile.
She knows it was not chance or coincidence that they met. She has long prayed that God direct her steps each day and is fully assured that He does just that. She prays that she will see this young man’s heart turn to Christ before she leaves this earth, but also trusts that God’s timing is perfect. She rests in the knowledge that she is doing her part. She finds purpose in each day. She hasn’t chosen, as some elderly folk have done, to be finished with really living. This makes me proud.
She is old. I don’t often think of her as being old, only when I watch from a distance as she walks. I notice then how small and fragile she looks. But no matter the outward appearance, I still see strength. I want to grow old and be like her. I want to awaken every day with a renewed sense that God still has something for me to do. To believe that as long as I am on this earth my life matters to Him and to others. To live surrendered to His will, content with what He has for me, to go where He leads even if that means eating at the same restaurant day after day so that a young man can come to know Him.
I want to grow up and be like my mother.