“Claude?” What happened to grandma Mary, Nana Susie, or Gram? “Claude?” Kendra tried to reconcile in her mind. That’s not an old lady name like Ruthie or Sarah. Kendra remembers the only old lady besides Claude to have a non old lady name was her mother’s mother Mama Tanjee. Claude could interpret Kendra’s surprise and answered confusion. “Short for Claudette” the old lady answered. “What do I smell like”? Claude asked. “Like life.” Kendra replied with out a chance to dress up her answer. “Like life” she softly echoed as she sheepishly sand back in her seat, wishing she could just melt into it. “Thank you”, it’s a blend of Citrus and Jasmine oil. My daughter sent it to me from the Middle East. She lives there now.” Claude said.
“Oh”, I’m sorry. Military, huh?” Kendra asked. “Sorry for what?” Claude asked. My daughter is a missionary. She’s doin the Lord’s work. “The Lord’s work?” Kendra asked. Isn’t that kinda redounded; being that the Middle East is the Holy Land in all?”
“Israel is referred to as the “Holy Land.” “That where my Chris is now is Saudi Arabia. She was in Morocco.” “Don’t they teach you’ll Geography and World history?” Claude asked earnestly. And even people in Israel need to know about Jesus as their savior or Messiah in their language” Claude self corrected. Claude followed up this assurance love in her voice and true conviction in her eyes.
“Great!” A Jesus Freak @ twelve o’clock. Sorry I even asked Kendra thought to herself. “Yes I did learn Geography and History and in my History class the Jews killed your Jesus.” “So I guess they already decided like many people today, they don’t need your Jesus.” Kendra retorted with a fierce look defensive tone.
Claude incensed Kendra’s invisible wall of anti religion and isolation immediately building up faster than a fox runnin’ from the chicken coup she thought to herself.
Claude took a chance. Quickly and lovingly she grabbed Kendra and placed her hand with Kendra’s right hand and turned her body towards Kendra. Claude fixed her left hand under Kendra’s chin and lifted Kendra’s pensive face to meet hers and Claude softly said “I don’t know how I have offended you, but I am truly sorry.” I thought it was offal nice of you to say I smell like life. “I don’t know if you’re missing a loved one, and although I do miss my Christina, I know her life is in the Good Lord’s Hands. Lastly dear heart, it was not Jews who killed Jesus.
It was the religious who plotted to kill him. But no one ever really took Jesus’ life, He simply laid it down, gave it away for you and me. Even the religious and the same way He laid it down, He picked it back up again for you and for me.
Kendra looked bewildered and intrigued as if she was watching some type of illusionist. “What are you talking about lady?” What’s the difference?” Jesus, Buddha, Zen, Atheism, it’s all the same and it’s all religion to me!” And yes I do miss someone very dearly, but unlike your Jesus, he’s not coming back!”
You can see your daughter if you wanted but why did God have to take my brother!” Where was Jesus when the drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit my baby brother and left him to die in my arms! Did Jesus give his life for that!?”
Kendra didn’t even realize how much her body was shaking from the grieve and anger that had been laying dormant in her but was now violently irrupting without reservation. Her voice was trembling and tears begin to flow from her bitter weeping eyes. Kendra’s posture went from a defiant posture staring down the enemy, to a 24 year old little girl who crumbled herself into comforting arms of a little old lady wearing a cream and baby blue hand made double knit sweater.
“Hope, Love, Faith and Forgiveness.” In an instant, these word that MaraLee spoke to Kendra during their conversation came flooding back to Kendra’s mind.
“What does it all mean?” Kendra softly questioned trying to retrain the tears and fight through her own anxiety. Kendra remembers MaraLee telling her about MaraLee losing her own mother at the age of 12 and being sent to live with her maternal grandmother. Later on her father remarried and started a new family of his own and never sent for her to rejoin him. She has two siblings out there in the world somewhere, and she has yet to meet them.
“Where was Jesus to put the pieces back for me and my mom when my dad left us and moved out after Myles died?” He moved to God’s knows where excuse me, no pun intended Kendra corrected herself. The more Kendra tried to gain her composure and refrain from these eight year old suppressed emotions, the more the fought back with a vengeance to be liberated, each sob more intense than the last, each tear seemed wetter than the last, each groan more mournful than the last, expressing words and emotions that cannot be verbally uttered.
No, for Kendra Wallace, in this moment, there were not enough words in the human vernacular that could begin to describe her guilt, her grief, her shame and self hatred.
All in an instant what seemed like Kendra’s wall of eternal separation began to crumble brick by brick. “The Great Emotional Wall of China” now lay disintegrated and defenseless against the weapon of Agape Love demonstrated in the form of 63 year old lady named Claude with salt n’ pepper hair cascading down her middle of her back (instead of being pent up in a bun like grandma’s are suppose to) and a stylish bang in the front. Yes it was a Louisiana born and raised southern belle that cradled and consoled the so called street smart 24 year city girl, who was now nothing more than another lost and confused soul.
Claude gently stroked Kendra’s ebony black mane with the baby blonde highlights. Feeling every breath of sorrow and weight of Kendra’s grief through her snotted stained, tear and saliva soaked sweater arm, Claude decided to just let the poor girl cry her heart, for as long as she wanted too, for as long as she needed to. The emotional meltdown progressed from Claude’s’ sweater into her lap. Some people glanced, some stared, others just continued looking ahead pre occupied with their lives, as they know it. Consumed and concerned with the cares of their own universe, too busy to be bothered with girl obviously in pain, obviously in need. That is the way the world works. But is the world that also creates this type of pain and sorrow. The world creates the questions, the situations of sorrow, anger and grief that they cannot answer. It takes a GOD to answer. Indeed on this day He did answer in the form of a little old lady name Claude. (Colossians 1:27 “Christ in us…The Hope of Glory”) Claude smiled and she fondly remembered that scripture and recited to herself in her mind.
Claude embrace reaffirmed her embrace, letting Kendra know it was okay, giving her unspoken permission to take in the love and compassion that she had denied herself for a long time. Claude didn’t offer a tissue or say a thing. Claude just held Kendra in her arms and rocked her. Claude believed that this was no chance meeting and she was meant to be an instrument of love to Kendra, here and now, in this moment of time. Why God for so long has this child carried such burdens in her life Claude pondered”, but Claude was met with this answer “Come to Me all of you who are laden with heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” “It is with my loving-kindness I drew her to you Claude.” Claude knew then Christ Himself heard the cry of Kendra Wallace’s broken soul, and chose very date to heal her land (2 Chronicles 7:14) Claude took comfort in knowing this, prayed within herself for wisdom and determined she would do and say everything the Holy Spirit would give her to do and say in order for her to win Kendra’s soul for it is true “He that wins souls to Christ is wise” Proverbs 11:30) At the appropriate time Claude lovingly whispered “Jesus wept too”.
Kendra slowly gained her composure. “I’m I’m sorry Kendra said stuttering. “I don’t know where all that came from.” Looking around with embarrassment. “It came from your heart dear one” Claude replied gingerly. “Now do you want some answers?” “Answers to what?” Kendra replied with confusion. “Answers to your questions love.” You asked real questions.” “Valid and tough they may be, all the same they were honest questions that came from the heart.” Now, do you want hard and real answers or not?” “Some you may like, and some you may not. You may choose to disagree with some of the answers, but I promise you, if you listen with your heart, then you can really hear what ol’ Claudee Gal is really talkin bout’ (It had been over 40 plus years since Claudette left Louisiana and she didn’t have the accent, but sometimes the old bayou girl in her couldn’t help but come out).
“Claudee Gal?” Kendra asked. Yep. I was born in Slidell, but my family moved down to New Orleans when I was four. Papa had family down there.” “You don’t sound like uhh… uhh you know… Kendra tried not to sound offensive, so she just stumbled over her words.” “Yes I know dear what you mean. I don’t sound like a “country bumpkin”. I married at the tender age of 17 and my husband moved me away from my family. He was a military man. We relocated to Baltimore and that’s where I been ever since. That is until now of course.” “Funny how life takes you places you never expect ain’t that right dear one?
It took me from the bay, it took my baby Christina from the U.S. to China to Saudi Arabia.” “You know, I don’t know why for the love of me they call it the Middle East.” “I mean some countries are on Africa and some on Asia, so why don’t they just call it Afaisa for Ashiafrica, that way both countries don’t feel left out” Kendra saw Claude’s point but couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the idea of renaming the Middle East.
“Life also took my son from my arms at his birth and put my little baby in small grave site marked with angels on his tombstone, down in at the little chapel from where we worshipped my Jesus. Claude began to reminisce, his name was Everett Jean LaSalle and he was still born.” I cried out to God and asked Him to breathe the breath of life in my baby.” “But it didn’t happen.” I tell you dear heart, things like that can really test your faith and harden your heart if you let it.” “How did you go on?” Kendra softly asked sensing that they were kindred spirits who knew and understood each other’s sorrow.” I took comfort in knowing like the Good Book says “To everything there is a season, a time to live and a time to die” and all souls belong to the Good Lord.” “See dear one, ol’ Claudee Gal know a little somethin’ bout heartache too.” “So are you ready for those answers?” Kendra replied timidly“I guess so."