How lovely are the faces of those who walk with God
I could tell she was pretty once. Maybe even beautiful.
Her perfectly oval face was framed by silky white hair that blended almost seamlessly into the crisp, starched white pillow. Time had etched a myriad crevices into her 82-year-old face. Her features, finely chiseled in skin as delicate as choice porcelain, were strikingly youthful.
“Clare?” I asked softly, touching her fragile bony hand. “Are you up for a visit?”
Her face exploded into a wide, toothless smile as her cloudy blue eyes brightened.
“Oh, Honey, I’m so glad to see you,” she slowly rasped.
Her other hand reached up to smooth a stray lock of hair as Clare began to apologize for her appearance.
“I must be a mess,” she said, wiping some crusty material from her left eye. “I wasn’t expecting company.”
The staff of the nursing home told me Clare never had visitors. She had been dropped off at the long-term care facility by someone who regularly sent a check to support her care but never came back to offer emotional support or keep family ties tied.
Clare thought I was someone named Gretchen. I didn’t know whether I should assume Gretchen’s role or introduce myself.
Did she need me to be a long-lost family member, a daughter, perhaps? Would she be more comforted to think I was someone near and dear who still wanted to spend time with her?
I breathed a quick prayer for guidance and decided to be myself.
“I’m not Gretchen. I’m Bev,” I explained. “The staff told me you might like to make some new friends, so I came to see you.
Immediately, I saw she was disappointed. Defying the knot in my stomach, I forged ahead in my mission to bring some companionship to a lonely soul.
“I’m sorry Gretchen couldn’t come today, but I really wanted to meet you and get to know you. Tell me about yourself.”
“Oh, there’s not much to tell,” Clare said, her voice trailing off into a long, weary sigh. “I’m just an old woman with nothing to do but eat and sleep.”
“Who is Gretchen?” I asked.
“She’s my sister,” Clare said, brightening a little. “I never married or had children, but Gretchen and I were always together all of our lives.”
Clare closed her eyes and momentarily drifted away from me.
“Oh, what am I thinking?” she lamented as a stark reality opened her eyes and cleared her memory. “ Gretchen is dead now. I guess I just put that out of my mind for a while.”
I persuaded her to tell me more about Gretchen. Soon, Clare enfolded me into an engaging story about Gretchen’s husband and children and life on adjoining farms in Kentucky.
That day, and on subsequent visits, Clare smiled often and glanced away into a wonderful world I could see only through her words. But she was there. Transported back in time to a place where life was good and happy and vibrant.
One day, during a delightful excursion into Clare’s bygone days, I listened with rapt attention, speaking only to nudge her recollections from time to time.
Suddenly, the present interrupted the past, and Clare looked directly at me.
“I want to go home, Dear,” she said tightening her clasp on my hand.
“To Kentucky?” I asked.
“No. To Heaven. I know it’s so beautiful there. I’m tired of this old shell I’ve called home all these years.”
Silent tears softly trailed into the creases beneath her eyes. My heart ached as I grappled for words. None came.
As I struggled for composure, I heard Clare’s fading voice whisper, “You’re so beautiful.”
She gazed beyond me, slightly upward toward one corner of the room.
She released my hand for the first time since I had come that day. Feebly, she raised both arms toward the ceiling.
“Do you see Gretchen?” I asked, barely able to frame the question.
Clare paused for a brief moment, then added, “It’s Jesus.”
Her gaze remained fixed. Slowly, her thin, bony arms came down to rest gently at her sides.
I watched the lines fade from her small, oval face as the muscles beneath them relaxed for one last time. Death could not diminish the gift a lifetime of faith had given to this dear old saint.
She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
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