She was sitting on the park bench overlooking the sea, and to the casual observer she was simply watching the waves, but if you’re a people watcher like me, you would have seen the sadness etched on her face.
It was her eyes – the eyes always give it away. The pain was obvious - not physical pain, but the pain that can only be found deep within the soul.
Something made her look in my direction and when she realised I was watching, she looked away, embarrassed, as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“Go and talk to her.” The command was unmistakable.
I resisted for maybe thirty seconds before leaving my own seat and going across to her. “Are you all right - is there anything I can do?”
She looked at me and shook her head.
“Look, I don’t want to intrude,” I continued as I sat down next to her, “It’s just that you seem sad.”
She gave me a half smile. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only if you’re an observant nosey-parker like me,” I said lightly, trying to reassure her I wasn’t some sort of lunatic.
The half smile again, “You’re very kind Mr Parker, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my problems.”
“Why not – they say a problem shared is a problem halved.”
She continued to stare out to sea. “My daughter hates me.”
“Did she tell you this?”
“No, but it’s obvious she does.”
“Why do you say that?”
“She told me I am not welcome in their home; that I’ve had a problem with everyone she’s ever had in her life, that it’s my fault she and her older sister didn’t talk to each other for almost a year, and that if I think Louise and I have a good relationship I’m living in la-la land.”
“Who is Louise?”
She closed her eyes and sighed, “My oldest daughter.”
“Did you have a problem with everyone in your youngest daughter’s life?”
“Only once – when she was sixteen – one of the elders at our church started picking her up from school during her free periods and taking her to the mall for lunch.”
My thoughts must have been blazoned across my face because she said: “Yes, I thought the same thing.”
“How did you find out it was happening?”
“A friend who was in charge of security at the mall told me – she said she’d seen them walking through the mall holding hands like a couple of teenagers.”
“That’s not good.”
“No it’s not.”
“What did you do when you found out?”
“I went to one of the other elders and told him because we didn’t have a pastor at the time. I said I thought Jack’s behaviour was totally inappropriate and I wanted something done about it.”
“The other elder called a meeting and because of the seriousness of the matter, it was brought before synod.”
“Synod being the ruling body of your church?”
“What did synod do?”
“They reprimanded him for ‘unwise’ behaviour but decided not to record the minutes of the meeting in the church register because that might possibly put a black mark against him for the future ¬– a decision they regretted seven years later.”
“What happened seven years later?”
“He was dismissed from his position at a Christian counselling centre for sexually assaulting one of his clients.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Yet despite this, your daughter still resents you for the stand you took?”
“Yes, even though it happened fifteen years ago, she specifically named the elder and his family as someone I’d had a problem with.”
She sighed. “I miss my daughter and grandchildren so much. I’ve only seen them once in the past five months and that was at our family get together on Christmas day. She and my son-in-law didn’t talk to me at all, and every time I went towards either of them, they’d move away. I didn’t care that I was the only one who didn’t get a gift from them – just a hug would have been nice.”
Suddenly she turned her head and smiled at me. “You know Him, don’t you,” It was a statement rather than a question.
I looked at her quizzically, unsure at first what she meant.
Her smile broadened. “You can always tell when someone spends time with Him; His character shines through – you see His reflection.”
Suddenly I understood and smiled back. “May I pray with you?
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