It was a joint retirement party of a very special kind. The strains of Vivaldi's Four Seasons could be heard resonating from the string quartet in the corner of the small banqueting hall. The laughter of the guests rose and fell in varying crescendos as they reached for their champagne and passing canapés before lunch began.
My mother and Aunt Vera were identical twins. At sixty-five, their light blue eyes still shone with a striking youthfulness and energy but their champagne blonde hair was gracefully fading to grey. Although entirely different by nature, they'd taken very similar paths professionally and both had retired as senior partners of reputable law firms. My mother was an expert in corporate mergers and acquisitions and Aunt Vera had specialised in family law. After years of arduous work and long hours, a celebration seemed in order.
"We can have a joint party, Evelyn, but only on the condition that I can invite absolutely anyone I like….and I mean absolutely anyone!" Aunt Vera had said resolutely.
My mother had shuddered at the thought of all the eccentric individuals that her sister would invite to mix with her friends and colleagues but she grudgingly accepted anyway. The odd mix of people might provide a bit of entertainment at least.
It really was a like a huge wedding banquet. There were over two hundred people – extended family, work colleagues, friends from their home-town, and friends from overseas, tennis partners, bridge partners and theatre companions. Then there were Aunt Vera's invited guests….family, friends and work colleagues but also church friends and mission workers, a small group of children from the local orphanage who were being quietly entertained in a corner by a mime, and a number of disabled ex-servicemen proudly wearing their uniforms and medals. What a guest list!
"Just like the wedding banquet in that Bible of yours," my father quipped to me quietly as he took another gulp of a whisky on the rocks and gestured to the array of guests as he passed by. "Guests picked up off the street corners."
There was a sudden hush as the microphone was tapped and everyone turned towards the podium for the speeches.
The Chairman of the Board of my mother's firm congratulated her on her retirement, praised her strong work ethic, and reeled off a lengthy list of her professional achievements.
"And to conclude, I'd like to read you a quotation I found which reminded me of Evelyn. Jean Baudrillard said,' Executives are like joggers. If you stop a jogger, he goes on running on the spot. If you drag an executive away from his business, he goes on running on the spot, pawing the ground, talking business. He never stops hurtling onwards, making decisions and executing them.' "
He paused, then said," I hope Evelyn is going to stop jogging like that now and just relax!"
Everyone laughed and clapped.
Aunt Vera's pastor spoke next. He spoke a little of her achievements in the field of family law, focusing on her pro bono work to help those who could not afford legal representation. He then went on to describe her work with the children in the local community, her tireless efforts to raise funds for HIV/AIDS victims in Africa, and her constant support for the church's working-women prayer groups.
"I think I can safely sum up Vera's life motto with this scripture from Colossians. It reads, 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.'* We wish Vera many blessings in her retirement years. Amen."
With that the twins continued circulating the room together to greet their guests.
Standing with me was an old friend of my mother's who'd flown all the way from Hong Kong for the occasion. She linked arms with my mother pulling her away saying, "And now what will you be doing with all your free time?!"
"Oh, I don't know," Mother laughed, "Perfecting my bridge, enjoying lunch out without my 'phone constantly ringing to call me back to the office….."
I sighed, disappointedly, and then turned to my Aunt smiling:
"And you, Aunt Vera, what about you?!"
"I'll be doing what I always did. How could I retire from serving the Lord?"
I laughed and hugged my aunt, "Amen to that!"
*Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
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