Dance Steps of Faith
Early this year I wrote a bit about my friend Virginia. She and I talked for a while about her experiences as a single woman over the course of her one hundred and two years. In some ways, I remember feeling a little guilty even bringing it up. We are talking about an amazing woman, a writer of books, a teacher and nutritionist. She spent her years doing interesting and exciting things, and making meaningful connections with people. In many ways, she is the sort of woman I want to be when I grow up.
Some of you may remember that piece, After Church. Even though I was nervous to ask, knowing how full and rich Virginia's life had been, she did not respond with only the sunshine. She was honest with me about the complexities of life as a single woman, and specifically as a single woman of faith. Her words about after church, a time of loneliness for her, since many people went home to their families, stuck with me, echoing in my ears.
A few weeks ago, I went to visit Virginia. She was no longer able to be at home, and they were saying that the end was near. I wanted to make sure I got to say a few things, even though I've said them before.
She was asleep when I arrived, and I took a moment to reflect. I thought about her 100th birthday party, so many people gathered in one place. I went on a first date with my last boyfriend that day and she confused him for a member of the maintenance team when he came to pick me up (as the relationship unfolded and shriveled, I've come to love that story).
I had asked her if she would mind me writing about our conversation and she'd agreed, though she didn't know that anyone would find it of interest.
But that piece hit a nerve.
I told her about it, the next time I saw her. She was pleased, and yes, surprised.
She was engaged in her 70s, and when I saw her last, she was still wearing the diamond. Whenever anyone asked about it, she would tell us that it was a sad story. Sometimes, she would tell it. When most people tell me that I'm young and I have plenty of time, I don't appreciate it. Somehow, it was different coming from Virginia.
It struck me, on this visit, as I sat in a chair near her bed, that it was Sunday, after church. Here we were, two single women, spending the afternoon together, neither one of us alone.
When she woke, we talked. It was hard to see a woman who had been so independent, confined to a bed, so in need of assistance. Still, she wanted to know how I was, asking after the intimate details of my life.
I've been richly blessed with people in my life. More than that, I've been blessed with strong, insightful, brave, and faithful women. It is hard to pick among them, when I think of my heroines in the faith. Sometimes, I single them out, one by one. It is good to remember.
Virginia passed away this week. That Sunday, after church, was the last time I saw her. I got to tell her I loved her, and even as she slept, I whispered some thanks and shed some tears.
Virginia showed me a lot of things in the time that I had with her. She modeled a gracious spirit, and true hospitality. She reminded me that I am stronger than I think.
But most of all, she danced the steps of faith in front of me. I loved to listen to her pray out loud, talking to her Friend. She loved Jesus and she leaned heavily on Him, even as she resisted leaning too hard on anyone else.
Sometimes, the future seems daunting. And although death is unknown, it is the life that really concerns me sometimes. So much is obscured and untested.
Once, I asked Virginia how she'd approached her singleness, as well as the rest of her life. "I just did the next thing," she said. "And then I did the next thing after that." Those words, too, have rung in my ears.
It's hard to believe she's gone. I half expect to turn a corner and see her standing there, bright lipstick and all. I suppose, one day, I'll do just that.