Crossing the English Chanel by ferry, was another grand advent for me, and a blessing as well. I met another American, an artist by the name of Mary Leonard.
She was walking around a group of chairs and dropped her bags, with pens, brushes, and an odd assortment of paints and inks. I helped pick her things up, and she thanked me, in French. I Said, "I am sorry mama."
She fell back and practically shouted, "Praise God, and American." We spent the ride over the Chanel talking about home, and watching the sunset. Mary was 54 that year, and said she was dying of cancer. She became my aunt in the family of the Lord, and gladly so.
She could not see me spending money on a hotel, and put me up in the guest room of her home. She lived there with her nephew, her real sister's son. He seemed nice, and was worried when Mary had not shown up that morning, I had to smile at her response.
"I'm a growed woman," she said, giving him a big hug, then added, "don't you worry, if the good Lord takes me home, I'll send a postcard saying so."
We sat late in the night talking, she spoke of her life there, and the pains she endured daily. I opened up to Mary on my own pain. We both had a good cry, which lead to a favorite scripture, Psalms 23, which we quoted together.
The next morning, I thought I would like to see the country. Mary called a taxi, and after a good breakfast, she packed a bag full of sketch pads and pens and we were off.
As we arrived at the Stone Hearth, in St Ives, it seemed that not only had Mary been there before but was well known. The owners were a lovely couple, and good Christian stock. I paid for my room, which they gave to me half off, being a friend of Mary's.
After dinner we were sitting in the common room of the Inn, where I noticed a painting, a woman standing on a balcony, looking out to sea. Getting a closer look, I saw a scratchy 'M. Leonard' and had to laugh, no wonder they knew her.
Over the next few days I drawn to that painting again, the longing in the woman's expression. It brought to mind many images, old tales of sailors lost at sea, and their wives longing for their return.
I set to writing a poem about the woman in the painting, then found a man do up plaque work for it. That night at dinner I called the owners in to join us for a moment.
"Every night now I have sat looking at that painting," I said, " thinking of the woman, feeling sorrow in how she is waiting, watching." I pulled up the plaque, and went on, "I wrote down those feelings in a poem, and had this made."
They looked at the plaque, then showed it to Mary, who read it as well. She held the plaque close for moment then told me of the painting. Her husband had died years before, it was a self portrait of her, watching the sunset, thinking of joining her husband.
Sae and Tears
In a lamp lit window, from a house by the bay,
a young lady sits watching, as the ship leaves port.
Her Lord, her hope, gone ítil another day,
long in coming, a promise of faith.
Now she mourns, quakes with sorrow,
yet soon the return, of her loving King.
Yet strong in faith, the lady awaits,
praising the heavens above,
"Keep safe, o Lord, Thy shining light,
return my love, so fair and bright,
My Lord, my love, my shining hope,
with faith I await that fateful date,
when I rest in Thy arms again."
I said my good byes that next morning. We had breakfast and parting prayer, and Mary saw me to the bus stop, where she gave me big hug, and told me to stop in again. I told her that if she went home before then, to drop me a card.
Two years later I received a post card from Venice, Italy. In Mary's scratchy print it said, "Think I will be going home now, see ya there Kiddo. Much love, Aunt Mary."
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