So this was it. The sum total of 95 years of her life, reduced to a little room on the second floor.
Tom and Dorothy, her son and daughter-in-law, had tried to seem cheerful as they’d said goodbye that afternoon. They’d chirped on about the tall trees, the birdsong and the manicured lawns and flower beds they’d viewed down below. But they knew it couldn’t compare with Gladys’ own cottage garden that she’d cultivated with pride. The gardener had kept it looking half decent during the last ten, fading years, during which time her world had gradually descended into a slough of pain and immobility.
Tom had thoughtfully left two photo albums on the cupboard next to her chair. They were carefully chosen to include the people and places that best represented Gladys’ life. Especially Robert, her late husband, who’d died twenty years ago. She opened one of them, gazed at the first few pages, then shortly afterwards fell asleep.
With a start she awoke to see a figure sitting in the chair opposite.
‘Oh, good heavens! I must be going mad!” she cried.
“No, you’re not!” replied the figure, “but I’ve come to show you an unseen story, to look behind the curtain at what you haven’t appreciated.”
Gladys didn’t dare ask the stranger his name. She knew who he was as he gently placed an old, cloth volume on her lap. As Gladys opened it, what appeared to be a living 3D image stood up from the page. She could not only see, but feel the picture of her neighbours enjoying a tea party. She suddenly became aware that in their eyes, she was the focal point of their gathering. Her frailty, her willingness to let them be a part of caring for her, had drawn them together in an unimaginable sense of unity.
The next page was of a family gathering in which, once again, Gladys featured as the star of the occasion. Her generosity, her welcoming spirit, her tender concern for them had undergirded them. The husband she’d cherished; her son and daughter, and Kate whom they’d adopted. The abandoned kittens that the children had taken pity on…the five grandchildren they’d taken on holiday. Other pages showed the six great-grandchildren who now graced her life; her church fellowship; the children she’d taught in her younger years…
And then Gladys got the message – that her input into her family, her friends’ and her neighbours’ lives hadn’t just been a part of their history. It was bearing ongoing fruit, like sap rising from the roots, through the trunk, to the branches and leaves of a tree. As Gladys’ tears flowed freely, she asked,
“Why can’t you take me now, to be with you?”
Jesus gently smiled. “No, it’s not yet time. I have one last group of people that it’s my purpose for your life to touch. You may feel you’re here to fade away, but that’s not how I see it. Let me live in you to love those who care for you, and others who feel abandoned.”
Gladys took heart and, in time, was able to acclimatise. Her encounter with Jesus had given her a strange confidence to be herself. She became a well-loved friend of the lonely, a carer for the carers, with whom she was a great favourite even when she put them to a lot of extra work.
Several months later, Gladys once again saw ‘him’ sitting in the chair opposite her. This time, he took her hand, and she found herself transported to a path leading over a fast-flowing mountain ghyll. She remembered it from her honeymoon, when Robert had leapt across the gap, then stretched out his hand to her.
“Come on, darling – jump!”
And now Jesus was asking her to make the same leap. Looking at him doubtfully, she asked if she could make herself a way by placing stepping stones across the ghyll. Jesus shook his head.
“There’s only one way,” he said, “You’ve just got to trust Me. Come on, Gladys, look straight into my eyes!”
As Gladys jumped for the last time, she took her final breath.
2 thoughts on “Gladys’ Last Adventure”
Very moving John.
You have such a gift. Thank you for using your gift to be a blessing.