Her body, once tall and strong, was bent with age, and her once youthful crown now dispensed straggly, grey tissue. I remember that long, tapered fingers, once strong enough to stroke music from ivory keys, had curled on themselves, and the piano sat dust covered in the garden apartment where a life’s collection of fine furniture, silk room dividers, and china had been pared down to strain against the walls of this simple, rented room. There were boxes of tissues on the table, and snail like shreds littered the floor on the side of the ottoman that she could not see. A cat slinked along the back of the sofa like Cleo's barge gliding on the Nile.
I think now looking back that she was in all manner of pain.
I visited her there in the garden apartment on Friday afternoons for a whole year. There was never any tea for the pretty pot that sat in the china cupboard towering in the low ceiling corner. Her refrigerator was mostly empty.
She lived alone, whittled down to the last vestiges of her independence. And then even that was taken from her. Our visits moved to her assisted living facilities and became less frequent. And then one last visit in a nursing home. No one knew to call me when she was diagnosed with cancer and moved to the hospice.
On some of those autumn afternoons icing into winter and thawing into spring, she told pretty stories about being a young woman in the ‘20s, marrying an admiral in the navy, living abroad and raising children who were clever and now lived in distant lands. But she seldom spoke of herself, waving the veined marble of her curled hand in the air at her troubles as if they were light and momentary. She did not complain.
She fed on God’s Word, it was honey and meat to her old bones, wrapping around her like the warmth of King David’s Shulamite. She offered the Words to me on a tray, poured them into the frail cup of my heart like a feast of tea and buttered scones. We talked into the late afternoon about many things, often about my life. She knew the names of the children I taught and the troubles they had, she knew the hours my husband worked, and the little misfortunes and triumphs of my young daughters' lives. She spoke over us cataracts of grace.
The last time i saw her, she was lying in an exposed room in a hospital bed with clatterings and conversations spilling all around her, oblivious to her. Those blue, gas flame eyes stared sightlessly at the TV suspended in one corner of the room, the station dialed to a profane and sordid afternoon story. She had no voice to call a young nurse and gently instruct her to change the station, and in so doing learn about the nurse and her family, and then add her to the long scroll of intercessions now archived in the quiescent hull of her beautiful mind.
After that It took me weeks to find news of her. By then she was gone.
Her name was Rosalie. She was grandmother, mentor, and autumn flame to me. I remember how she faced the Growing Old and i bow my head and hear her voice from that once now gone October. . .
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory . . .
~ 2nd Corinthians 4:16-17