The minute I stepped into her smile I wanted to stay there. The girl and I would be keeping watch in her daughters’ home one door down while they were away and we would most definitely be invited over. I was already waiting. The light from her windows that night reached out like a Little Golden Book, all amber colored and pulsing warmth as we walked away. There was love there and it called my name.
A few days into our stay my phone rang. Wednesday would be our day. I watched the clock for 11 and made my way through the yard that separated us. She offered me two options in case I was a vegetarian. I loved that she’d thought that carefully. I stood in her kitchen where she’d raised her children and said goodbye to her husband when he went to heaven. Her life was now filled with grandchildren needing books read and rides to activities and love sown with the thread of her presence. But today, Martha made me tuna fish and put it on cranberry walnut bread and brewed me strong iced tea. We sat at the table, the chairs creaking just as I’d hoped they would, bowed our heads and thanked our common Father for the food and each other. And then? Martha looked up at me and smiled her smile and sunshine spilled into my heart and ran through my veins.
There are times when you sit with a person and their chair seems a bit more elevated than yours, their stories more interesting. Martha pulled her chair to even ground and we gathered together like women who had never met but always known each other. She wanted to know who I was and where I’d been as if I was coming off the wild frontier and letting her know the news from other lands. Her eyes flashed curious and bright and still learning. I got the feeling she’d just as quickly patch a torn sleeve as roll up a sleeve when sleeves needed rolling up and the hard needed tending to. I somehow knew I could tell her the truth about truth that was hard in the telling and Martha would not falter.
She shared the painful journey of a younger friend who had recently lost a child; how they knew at the birth that their time with their baby would be measured in days. This brave mama took a baby book meant to remind her of the moments from birth to high school and learned how to be taught how to number the days, to fix on the minute here and now as the clock counted down. At the twelfth day, on the twelfth page of the baby book, they said goodbye to their child this side of heaven and accounted for the blessings on the last page, the last day. And pain mixed with gratitude and it was well with their souls.
“Martha! This woman will teach others. It should be called Twelve Days Ministries. She will show us all how to number our hardest days and find the gold hidden there.” We looked at each other with truth dawning on us. We could teach ourselves, Martha and I, how to take twelve days and record what happens with eyes trained on our Creator. There was a gasp of silence, a grab- hold- of- yes- and -amen moment between us. Right then, Martha and I were sisters, friends, travellers.
The clock told us it was time. The girl would be home soon. Martha had somewhere to be. I asked if I could take her picture, that I wanted to have something to remember the day. It would be one of the first things in my Book of Twelve Days. And Martha and her tuna fish on cranberry bread would be one of my most treasured moments.