Every once in awhile one of those perfect opportunities to take a selfie with someone important slips by and leaves regret. Just night I experienced just one of those incidences.
Mr. R and I spent about three hours in a laundry mat early last evening. Every once in while our capacity to keep up with our laundry positively exceeds the number of people living in this house. The dirty clothes brought home by a traveler exasperates the never-ending challenge to stay caught up. Thus Mr. R's suitcase full of dirty laundry after last week's trip to sweltering Zambia with Sarah put our family in a state of near-crisis.
In the midst of the tedious work of doing laundry in that environment, I was blessed by the Lord in such an expected way. A very elderly woman came in to wash her bathroom rugs. From the first time I spotted her my heart was drawn to her because she reminded me of my beloved mother-in-law, Jane. I could see that she was experiencing some trouble in comprehending how to use the machine she needed for her single load. I did my best to off the help, while still showing her dignity. Our three or four years with Jane's declining-brain function as she passes through her eighties has taught me much about gently coming alongside the elderly.
As we worked side-by-side attending our loads of laundry. Helen introduced herself and started a conversation by commenting our large amount of laundry. I gave the the simplest answer I could of I could think, which was just to explain that we are the parents of twelve kiddos. She immediately beamed and told me she had thirteen children.
Having guessed at the her season of life, I asked if she happened to have any great grandchildren . She blew me away by telling me she had some twenty-some, but, honesty, I didn't do my best listening. I missed the exact number because I was in awe! As I was busy considering her legacy, Helen went own to proudly share the news that she has great-great grandchildren! I immediately asked if I could hug her, telling her she was the very first great-great grandmother I'd ever meet. She looked sheepishly pleased at my desire to hug her and warmly took me into her embrace. I immediately felt as though I was in my mother-in-laws arms. What a joy that sensation was since we live six hours from Mr. R's mom and rarely get to see her.
After our embrace, I asked how long she had been married, and she told me that her husband died in the year they would have reached their 60th anniversary. I told her congratulations for reaching that unusual milestone. Her response was a sad shake of her head. She told me she believes few of those in today's culture will reach their 60th anniversaries unless they add up the number of years they passed in their first second and third marriages.
By this time Helen's bathroom rugs were finished, and she was ready to return to her home in an senior living center. We hugged again...and again, and then I told her what an honor it had been to meet her. This strong woman walked out carrying her own laundry basket and wearing a smile.
The Lord was so good to provide me with this bright spot in the middle of the glum of spending the afternoon in a dirty laundry mat! What a privilege! What kindness from the Giver of all Good Gifts! (James 1:17 NASB) My only regret that I didn't ask Helen if I could take a selfie of the two of us. After all, we're both mothers of extra-large broods! The memory of this sweet encounter will just have to live on in my mind.