A friend is very ill, but not in pain, and not distressed. She’s living in a beautiful haven of comfort and love and I can imagine nowhere more restful or peaceful. This afternoon we sat in companionable silence, thinking great thoughts of life and love and death, but not having the words for them. I nodded off, woke, and we both smiled sleepily. Two women peacefully waiting for … what? She worries that when I visit she has no ‘news’ for me, but I don’t know why, because I certainly don’t have any for her. We meet most days and when we do there’s a brief smattering of chatter, maybe a crossword puzzle, a moan about a mutual friend perhaps, sometimes a funny memory and a bark of laughter, but always a shared Bible verse, a simple prayer and then… silence.
The silence is good, folding around us like a blanket. We have no plans for the future because we can see no further than today. There is no urgency, no timetable, no chores. It’s a new experience for both of us. I said today that it was as if we were becalmed. She thought about it and offered ‘in the doldrums’.
But the phrase ‘in the doldrums’ has connotations of being down in the dumps, low in spirit, and we are not that. We are simply becalmed. We are floating in a small safe boat, as silent mist rolls in around us, the only sound the soft lapping of water, no need for words, no tomorrow, no yesterday, just today.
We didn’t come here of our own free will, we were brought here. We can’t do anything to get out of this still place. We just live in it, for now. And it’s a good place to be. There is none better.
But I’m not a Pollyanna. I’m not ridiculously cheerful and unendingly positive. There are days, or hours, of course there are, when she feels the poignancy and pain of preparing to say goodbye, of that parting. And there are days when I share the pain, in my own lesser way.
I’ve just sent her the song ‘Feels Like Home To Me’. It’s not a hymn but I sing it to God and then it becomes a hymn. A big stonking, rich, loving, lovely hymn of thanks and homecoming and praise. And it’s where she’s at. Right now. Home where she belongs, in eternity.
Maybe next week she will be well enough to drive out, to go to lunch. Maybe she won’t. If she is, that will be good. If she isn’t, that will be good too; we’ll stay in and have something ridiculously extravagant. Every day given to us is a gift, and we thank God for each of them. “Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Every day. Even today. When she was so very very ill in hospital, when the drugs weren’t helping, we would repeat those words, “All the days of my life. Even today.” and now, when we are in this strange becalming, we say it again “All the days of my life. Even today.”
It occurred to me, as I drove home, that my final illness will probably be very different. I don’t make friends easily, I’m no good at accepting help, my family is many miles away…. will I die in an old people’s home, or in a busy overcrowded noisy ward, or all alone in my house? Don’t really fancy any of them. In fact they’re kinda horrifying, all of them. If I had a choice I would go like my husband did, a sudden pain and it’s done. But then, as the sun set over Cardigan Bay, I realised, that when I think about the future, I do have a choice; I can worry about it, or give it to God. Maybe there’s a level of trust we can all reach, when there’s a real becalming in our souls, deep inner peace when the storm is raging all around us. When we accept that there’s nothing we can do, that He is in charge, and that with Him we are blanketed by love, hidden in Christ.
Last year, or the year before maybe, I heard that phrase explained as ‘we are surrounded by Christ, held by Him, protected by Him, kept safe from harm.’
We are taught well at my little red church.
*See that photo? I took that! With my trusty iPhone. The mist on the River Teifi.