It was a small dinner party. Some people I knew, others I recognized. I found the table with my name on it and took a seat.
It felt like a blind date–not that I’d ever been on one–but I imagined this is what it would feel like. Waiting, wondering who would join you for dinner and if you two would connect quickly, or if you’d sit there awkwardly chewing your salad in wordless, crunchy silence.
Oh, I suppose context would be helpful before I continue this story. This was not a romantic scene from my wild and carefree youth. In fact, this took place about three years ago, when my youngest was only a few months old, and my husband was at home with the older two kids.
This particular evening, our church was sponsoring the launch of its women’s mentoring program. We would meet our mentor/mentee partner over a casual dinner, and pick a consistent day and time we could get together for the next six weeks.
So there I was, post-partum mom bouncing a happy little baby, waiting to find out which of these wonderful ladies was going to be my “mentor.”
And then, she arrived.
She was (as far as I could tell) the oldest lady in the room. She wasn’t ancient, but she had white hair and glasses and honestly, she didn’t look thrilled to be here. Some older ladies are very smiley and outgoing; she looked serious and maybe even grumpy. She didn’t talk much, so I tried to ramble on as best I could through dinner and dessert.
At the end of the evening, I drove home thinking about all the happy ladies excited to meet up with their new friends. I was a little bummed that my assigned partner was so… boring.
But this boring old lady showed up every week for the next six weeks. Her husband always drove with her, and he would graciously stay parked in my driveway for that hour while we visited indoors.
When she arrived for our first tête-à-tête, I apologized in advance for the crumbs that would likely be on the floor in future visits–and for the ugly, scuffed old green couch she’d have to sit on. (I despised that couch.)
However, she didn’t seem to mind. She mentioned that she’d had children, too, and remembered well those early, exhausting years of motherhood.
As we chatted, she began to smile more and even laughed a little.
She admitted that she was rather terrified of signing up to be a mentor. God told her to do it, she said, so she obeyed. She didn’t know what she was supposed to say or do–neither did I, for that matter–but I told her that I was happy to get to know her and learn about her life experiences.
And that’s what we did.
The second week she came, her husband helped bring in three frozen, ready-made meals from Costco, along with a huge plastic box of Costco cookies. She would routinely bring treats for the kids, too, which they were thrilled with.
I began looking forward to our one-hour visits–not just because she brought “stuff,” and she often did, but because she showed up. Every week.
We talked about God and marriage and family, we talked about our interests and passions. She was a very talented artist. I want to say she did oil painting, but don’t quote me on that. Once, the kids and I trekked over to her place where I got to see her artwork, and it was absolutely stunning. She loved to talk about her children and grandchildren and what they were up to, and she loved my little people, too.
Before COVID, I would try to say hi and give her a hug at church when I saw her. Sometimes I had to chase her down and find her in the bathroom, because Pastor Jeremy often preaches longer than the bladder allows.
I haven’t seen her in over a year, due to COVID. Gosh, it might even be closer to two years at this point.
Yesterday I received the routine church email about praise and prayer requests, and did a double-take when I saw her name mentioned:
Last week she went to be with Jesus.
Honestly, my first thought was, “She wasn’t that old!” But this dear, sweet, “boring” old friend of mine was now gone.
And it sucks.
It sucks getting older and watching your loved ones die. My cherished aunt also went to be with Jesus last year after an intense battle with cancer–goodbyes never get easier.
My fragile, pain-fearing heart threatens to harden and stop loving people, but I know that’s no way to live. I find myself angry with God, wondering why we have to get older and watch our loved ones drop like flies.
And I know they’re not flies. They’re with Jesus and as much as I celebrate that, I still hate being left on this side of heaven.
Anyway, if you’re a young person reading this: adopt some old people in your church. Bring your youth and life to their tired souls. Remind them that God is still using them for their good and His glory–and they have stories upon stories that you can learn from.
If you’re closer to the white-haired department: invest in us younger folk. Half the time, we can’t tell if you’re boring or cranky or nice, so muster up that old-person boldness and seek us out. Don’t get old and retire. Get old and inspire.
And to my dear friend who is now with Jesus:
Thank you for investing in a tired mom with three little kids. For sitting on my ugly green couch week after week and loving us. Thank you for being open and honest about the work God had done/was doing in your life. Thank you for just being here.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled…Titus 2: 3-5, 11-14 (ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”