I sat next to the loveliest woman my heart has seen in some time. We see with both our hearts and our eyes. To recognize beauty within the heart is far more lasting than to see beauty with waning eyes.
“Do you know what my favorite words are?” she asked me as she touched her wedding band. (Her husband passed away 12 years ago.)
“What?” I couldn’t imagine. I waited with her briefly in her living room before I began to pack the area into cardboard boxes. She was getting ready to move into an assisted living. We were surrounded by memorabilia from around the world: dolls, fans, tickets, tin boxes, photos, and paintings. She was a traveler in her day — sepia and black and white pictures of varying sizes lined the walls like a fine museum — showcasing snapshots of her dressed in everything from rain gear to ballgowns; having hot cocoa under the Eiffel Tower, strolling through Vatican City, skipping up the steps of a Scotland castle, and smelling a eclectic bouquet of flowers in China.
Her arthritic fingers began dancing to the classical melody I had put in moments earlier: “Clair de Lune.” A sweet smile spread across her face, allowing her tears to give themselves over her magnificent cheekbones. I could almost picture her getting up from her wheelchair and dancing throughout the room. She remained, but I felt her spirit twirling before me as we sat in silence until the song ended.
“Used to,” she whispered after the final note faded into the youthful smile of the girl in the pictures upon the wall.
I was not expecting her to say these words. I felt my chest ache and my face flush.
“I cannot do anything on my own anymore,” she continued. “Keep trying, Kid. Keep moving while you can. Don’t cheat yourself in the days you are able just because you can come up with an excuse. There will be one day when you really do have an excuse. Look at me.”
It felt a convicting pain in my bones. In my late 40s, I am not really a kid, but I suppose that is relative when a 90-year-old woman is addressing you. How many times do I not do things because I am self-conscious about the way I look, feel or the way I will be perceived? How many times have I kept doing what I was doing because I didn’t want to make an uncomfortable change or risk being rejected? How many times have I allowed someone else’s yucky attitude to become my ceiling? And how many times have I obsessed with worry rather than leave the outcome to God? Friend, I have so cheated myself on occasion.
How arrogant am I to treat earthly time as my constant companion? As I look upon the wall once more, I realize, despite the exposure of her photographs, this woman before me lived her life in full color. Time didn’t properly record what once was — the little details which make her … her. Her “used to” is in her touch … the touch of her husband wrapping his arms around her waist. Her “used to” is in her taste … what she tasted at the humdrum dinner table and on special occasions, and in the deep breaths she took as she inhaled and exhaled the sweetest bouquets and fragrances throughout her life. Her “used to” is in the many sounds of the symphonies and the laughter of her children and grandchildren, the sight of her first home … and her last; loving her husband until death do them part (and beyond), taking risks, failing forward, letting go, giving in, moving on, and trusting God through it all. Yes, I believe her “used to” is held in her try.
Is my try worthy of the gift of my today? Is yours?
“Keep trying, Kid. Keep moving while you can.”
Like me, you may not be a kid anymore, but you are still in a new, living day. Don’t cheat yourself of this special occasion: Today.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
SGLY, dear friends.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. You can find her newly released books, “H.E.R.O. Faith” and “Bad Disciples” on Amazon. To submit feedback on SGLY, please contact news@amtrib. com. Follow Chartier on Facebook: facebook. com/tiffanychartier and Twitter: @tiffanychartier