She wheels her walker over the throw rug that separates her living room from the dining area. I take a deep breath as I watch her bent over body shuffle towards me. Slowly, but steadily she makes her way to the chair that I have pulled to the middle of the room, and ever so gingerly, she sits her feeble bones down, and sighs. After catching her breath she laughs and tells me tales of when she was active, and spry, and go-getting. I place my hands in her hair and sift my fingers through each strand searching for the bobby pins she has hidden from me. One by one, I carefully slide them out and place them on the polished kitchen table behind me, the same table that once welcomed children and warm meals. After I have emptied her hair of the pins, I unravel the oversized rubber band she prefers. I tell her once again, that they have new hair bands, that don’t tangle or pull, and she tells me once again, that she always used rubber bands, and they are perfectly fine. Her hair is unleashed; soft and grey, looking like small loose wires, but feeling like silk through my hands. I hand her the brush and she starts pulling at her hair, stroking out the weeks worth of strays and giving her scalp a good scratch. Breathless she hands me the brush and I slowly and gently gather each hair back up, forming her little ponytail that she adores so much. I pull her hair through the rubber band that I have doubled over, cringing as I know the pain of a rubber band all too well. I secure it into place as she exhales long and slowly. Gathering up her pins, I place them one by one, securing every stray I find. After I finish, I pat her on the back and tell her we are done for the day, she laughs again and smiles at me. Her eyes look thankful, and her skin tired. I can tell this is hard, this letting go, this surrender of beauty. I help her up and she clings to her walker, her “security blanket” as she says. I help her over the throw rug, and back into her chair, where she sits and reaches for the remote while breathing deep through her oxygen tube. Again our eyes meet and she thanks me, I tell her I will see her tomorrow, and I slip out the front door, back to my house; fast paced, chaotic and loud, yet full of life.
The widow. She has taught me so much, yet she has said so little.
So often in scripture God calls us to care for the fatherless, the widowed and the stranger. I hear people yelling from every corner of the internet about the epidemic of orphaned and fatherless; in my city, throughout my state and around the world. Banging gongs and tall soap boxes still cannot remedy this tragic piece of statistic, but through prayer and petition I am seeing the ripple grow and seeing families change in shape and in color and in number. Can we raise the same voice for the widow? Can we bang that gong loud for those women who need us. For those whose arms cannot lift high and whose feet can not move so swift.
Each time I meet eyes with my sweet neighbor, my souls warms a bit. She has given me new perspective, one that has caused a major shift in my life. I am thinking more about the brevity of life, and how the days that seem long seep into years that are but an instant. I must soak up every minute of my chaos, the little toes that tip and tot around my house, and the smudgy glasses that clutter the panes of my windows, they are but a wisp in time. The tender spirits that I have been commissioned to train up, and the personalities that are developing under my nose, they are lives that will go on after me, to carry the sweet message of life and of soul salvation. I must hasten to care and I mustn’t neglect to listen because time is but sand through my hands, full one second and gone another.
And love, she has reminded me yet again to love; loving sacrificially, speaking life words and giving him, my husband, my time and attention. She asks me what he likes to eat, and I think of his pallet, so tried and true. She asks me what his favorite art is, and I am unsure; maybe I should find out. She asks me if I dolled up for him, and no I hadn’t; but maybe I should. Always on her mind, my love for him. In turn, he has crept into my mind more. Through her questioning I can see the deep vein of love she had for her beloved. They traveled and followed dreams, she supported him and him her. I can see, even in his absence her confidence in him. Her partner is cheering her on from the stands now, no longer defending her or joining her in life’s fight. It must be difficult to map it all out alone, even navigating through the channels on TV without a critic would be lonely.
The widow. She makes me think, she makes me love, she makes me live.
God is a defender of the fatherless and the defender of the widow. Other translations say he pleads for the cause of the fatherless and of the widow. Maybe to you, He is pleading the cause, asking or pulling, tugging or nudging you to stand up and to help; to comb hair, to sweep front porches or to bring fresh food. If your excuse is children, to that I say nay… what a sweet way to walk beside your children, showing them service, as they bake bread for the widow or draw pictures to brighten up their dimly lit room. According to the US census, there are currently over 13.6 million widows in the United States, I bet you can find one if you try.
May we work towards being a community that invites the widow into our lives with a servant heart, knowing that someday soon we will be sitting in our kitchen unable to lift our arms, as a young girl brushes through our hair.
Let us hear the plead and not neglect the widow.