Sunday Morning ~ Lucky
Linda, madzi apite, ndipo uziti ‘ndadala’. ~ Wait, let the waters flow away, and you will say “I am lucky”.
~ Chewa proverb
March 26, 2023
I used to be irritated when someone told me I was lucky. It implied I hadn’t worked for what I had. But now I recognize how good fortune, providence, divine intervention, luck, however one chooses to describe it, has been a recurring theme in my life.
When I went to Malawi in 1979 as a young wife and eager to save the world, my husband and I attended the missionary church in our village. The priests there, happy to see practicing ex-pats, invited us to Sunday dinner afterward. They were White Fathers, and though they were indeed caucasian, the order was named for the color of their vestments. Originating from France and Canada they devoted their lives to service far from their homes. I hear the criticism of missionaries but my experience didn’t support it. I saw them as selfless and giving, providing needed services: schools and hospitals. African priests now run these missions, but back then they were seminarians. Our time there was the beginning of long and meaningful friendships with these men and we saw them almost every day. They acted like proud uncles when my baby was born, baptizing him, visiting, caring, fretting about me. It was lovely.
Fr. Richard, the priest who baptized my child, left Malawi in 2019 for a retirement home between Quebec City and the mountain where I ski. I visited this week, wonderful to be with him again, like slipping on an old comfortable sweater. At the end of the week I stopped to have supper with him on my way home, and looking around his room, I thought the covering on his bed was too rough, too shabby, too basic. This man deserved a quilt with more meaning, softer, warmer, one that would soothe his aches during the night. I’ll make him one, I thought, I’ll use Malawian fabric and soft flannel for the backing. I’ll consider the design as I drive back to Maine, five hours into the sunset. I am so lucky to have this old friend and the time at the mountain where so much happiness resides for me.
I was saying goodbye when he said, “Wait, I go with you to the car! But first, I bless you.” He put his hands on my shoulders and asked God to care for me and keep me safe, to care for my children, to watch over them, to keep them healthy. I stood with my head bowed, comforted by the weight of his hands, feeling safe and loved. Any speck of angst within me spilled down a chute from his hands out through my feet into some receptacle I imagined in the basement. I thought, I am so lucky. We made the sign of the cross and said “Amen”. I lifted my head and he turned toward the door, then turned back quickly and said, “No wait, now you bless me.” I had never been asked this before. I have always taken his blessing as an unreciprocated gift. After all, I was not licensed for this. His head already bowed, I put my hands on his shoulders, now shorter than mine, and asked God to watch over him, to give him strength and shield him from the pain of aging. I asked God to help him know deeply the good he has given this world and surround him with the love he sowed.” We said “Amen”, he lifted his head with the air of routine and said, “Ok, now we go.” as if we had just finished putting the leftovers away instead of having a deeply spiritual moment. I chuckled following him into the hallway. I love this man.
In the parking lot I worried he might slip on some ice. I said, “Be careful, you may not be used to ice after so long in Malawi!” He laughed, “Yes, yes, yes, I know, I know! You call me when you get home, eh?” I told him it would be too late and I’d call in the morning, warmed by his concern. He looked in the back of my car, saw the skis and said wistfully, “Ah yes, I used to ski.” I said, “Everyone here skis. Of course you did. I bet you were a good skier. I wish I could have skied with you.” I handed him the bouquet of flowers I had in my car. “For your room. For Easter.” I told him I’d be back. He waved goodbye holding yellow tulips, as I pulled out of the parking lot and onto Route 40 south, the sun still high enough to get to the border before dark.
It doesn’t have to be winter to visit, I thought, though winter on the St. Lawrence has been part of my life since childhood. The cold can be brutal but the people never seem distressed by it. Their rosy cheeks and big smiles are framed with fur that speaks not of pillage but pragmatism. The beaver allowed human habitation in this glorious place; a remarkable gift. They exude a sense of joyous survival. Embrace this environment! Conform and be happy! That’s the feeling I have when I am there.
It had snowed the day before, piles of white, soft, fluffy stuff making everything magical. The skiing was fantastic. Gliding down the slopes on sugary snow, it was a postcard of winter into spring beauty. Each trail I descended brought back a thought of laughing with college friends, my siblings, my children, my father. I am so lucky, I thought. I am so lucky to have this place in my heart. I grabbed it, because nothing lasts. Rain will come, the snow will turn grey, and remind me there is always an icy underside. But it melts eventually. Until then we adapt with spikes and sand. Lucky.
Love to all,