“I have an amnesia.” she said. This after we had walked a couple hundred yards. I was a few steps ahead, acutely aware of the shared space with this strange woman who I had seen from time to time, but only in passing. We hadn’t come into even a tacit agreement to walk together. Yet, here we were, on separate walks in the same direction, and too close for too long not to acknowledge each had just become a part of the others experience.
“Oh?” was my only response. I’d never had anyone tell me they suffered from amnesia before. In the same moment, I felt the Holy Spirit, who had been quietly sneaking up, flare insistently within my heart. His gentle touch instructed me this was a moment to soften, to open, to be present.
“Yes. I don’t make memories, not for the last twelve years. I have a grandson, but I wouldn’t recognize him if I didn’t leave myself a note about him with his picture by it. Your son reminds me of him. I’m having a hard time. I want so much for him to have a grandma. It’s nice to see your little boy here this morning.” As she gave me more of the details about her life and her condition, I could see the weariness and pain.
“What do you do?”, she asked.
My mind flashed over all of the ways I could answer that question: I’m a mother, I sell houses, I coach soccer, I’m passionate about gardening. Instead, what came was, “I’m going into ministry.”
It felt right to say it. The women’s bible study is off to a good start and I know with ever growing surety that ministry is what I want to do with my life. Saying it out loud to someone felt like an affirmation. It seemed to be a defining moment; as if at just that second the direction of my life had been cemented.
We continued to walk, my son intermittently stopping the procession to give us flowers and hugs. She told me of her life before her condition began. She was a learned and accomplished woman with a heart for charity and children. As a gynecology student, she had delivered seven babies in her life. At one point she fed one hundred sixty people lunch each day with her catering company. She had home schooled her children and made a point to keep them close so she could raise them well.
“Now I have no use.” she said, tears of something beyond frustration sliding down her face. “I’m in a long dark tunnel of hell. You are an angel for me today. I really believe that. There’s something about you that helps me feel safe.”
I thought about how lonely and terrifying it must be to see only strangers, day after day after day. I imagined how the feeling of being useless must be torture. In addition, her body is suffering neurologically and doesn’t ever stop moving. Her memories stopped being made shortly after she was widowed (the second time) so it’s as if she’s stuck perpetually in that place of loss.
I had felt it earlier, but her words were strong confirmation I was there for a Divine appointment. My son brought a dandelion and told me to make a wish. I closed my eyes and felt Holy Spirit press me til I was dizzy. I asked her if she’d like prayer.
Holding hands, our heads bowed, I felt no embarrassment about praying with this stranger, whom I’d just met, on a pathway through a public golf course. As the prayer started, I could feel her begin to cry. I spoke out some of God’s Word about who He is and she cried out in an anguished voice, “Then WHERE IS HE?!”
I felt shaken by her despair. I didn’t know what to say. What was the answer? Where was God? I stumbled through the rest of the prayer, asking the Lord to make His presence known.
In parting, I asked how I should address her the next time we met. “I won’t remember you.” she said. “Just say my name and let me know you’re a friend on the path.” My son gave her a hug and we went our separate ways. It wasn’t until the next day that Spirit gave me the answer to her question.
‘Where is He?’ she had asked.
And the answer? … ‘He is here. Standing right next to you.’
That’s right. God in Christ was standing right next to her. He was holding her hands and praying with her on the path. He was swelling with Love and listening to her and joking with her. He was dealing with her honestly in conversation. He was making resolutions to stand beside her until she is healed.
He was there. Inside me. Of that, I am certain.
I don’t know what the outcome of this Divine appointment will be with my new friend on the path. I do know I am filled with a tender Love that is incredibly special. It is joyful and compassionate and wants absolutely nothing in return. And for that I am deeply grateful.
I look forward to seeing my new friend again, and starting fresh: A new day, a new prayer, a new chance to give the answer.