Friday, October 21, 2011

The Bag Lady (Reprint!)

I had only known her a short time, but we were instant friends. I was brand new to the church I was attending; she a founding member from way back. I was really very shy - she didn't seem to have a shy bone in her body. I was trying to find where the Lord was leading me - she was certain she was called to the mission field - in Romania of all places. She was well over 50 years of age. I watched incredulously as she began the preparations for her missionary journey.

She was just a little, middle aged, mother and grandmother. She didn't strike me as the "world traveling" type. She wasn't what I would have called daring. I loved to watch her sitting in the pew on a Sunday evening with her little granddaughter asleep on her lap. She always brought her granddaughter, who always slept through the whole service, resting in the secure knowledge of her grandmother's certain love.

She had never been outside the United States. She would have to go through at least a year or two of training and fund raising before she could embark on her journey. She was a bit like Moses! Called late in life; not sure of herself at all, but determined to follow His call.

I was with her the day she departed from O'Hare International Airport for the long trek to Romania. So were her daughter and little granddaughter. We drove to the airport attempting to hide the tension that dripped from every corner of the car. When we arrived at the airport, she began to unload bag after bag after bag of her belongings into a cart to drag across the airport to the gate where she would depart. She was laughing. We were trying not to cry.

After trooping all over the airport to find the gate she needed, she stood at the ramp to get on the plane, waving to us with a cheerful smile and blowing kisses to us all. I could not believe what I was witnessing. I found myself averting my eyes from her children - this was really a sacred moment in the life of this family as they said goodbye to their mother and grandmother. There were no tears. It was as if she was going shopping at the mall and would be back by evening's end. It was surreal.

Here was a woman, old by most standards of our culture, saying goodbye to the dearest things in the world to her. Her daughter, whom she described as "owning her heart". Her granddaughter who was like gold to her. My eyes could hardly take in the scene I was watching. Everyone said their controlled goodbyes, she disappeared into the belly of the plane and we walked in silence to the car for the long trip home without her.

I sat in the front seat as we entered the stream of endless cars fighting for a position in line to get out of the madhouse that was O'Hare Airport that day. Surrounded by a silence that enveloped us like a shroud, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Suddenly it happened. An ear piercing cry from the backseat shattered the silence and the pretense that this was no big deal. Her dear little granddaughter could no longer contain the pain of "losing" her grandmother. She cried inconsolably all the way home and rocked back and forth trying to fill the gap of her grandmother's arms around her.

There it was. The truth. All pretense was gone. Shattered by the love of a child who couldn't play the game anymore. She had just said goodbye to someone who loved her more than life itself. There are no words to console a child in that moment. I knew this had been excruciating for her and for her grandmother. I imagined my friend, alone, heading to a strange place so many miles away from home. I imagine she too cried on the plane - all the way to Romania...

I have never forgotten that day. She may have looked like a little old "bag lady". But, in truth, she is probably the most courageous person I have known in my lifetime. She just loved Jesus. She 'counted the cost' and willingly paid it all. I still stand amazed.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with a friend like this. She has witnessed to me a love for You that knows no bounds. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Scripture Reference: Mark 10:29

"I assure you of this. Anyone who leaves house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children, for My sake and for the Gospel, will receive in return a hundred times as much..."

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