Sunday, October 12, 2008

Believing is Seeing

One of my surviving aunts on my mother’s side died yesterday. She was a believer. She was ninety-seven years of age. She was waiting to leave this life. For the past many years she was sightless. Years ago she asked me to officiate her memorial service, so her son called me to invite me to do this.

Her name was Rose. Let me tell you what her life teaches me.

One day we sat together and this is what she told me. She and husband Jake, a school principal left Saskatchewan in 1947 and purchased twenty acres of BC dirt in the lower mainland. They and their children, Shirley, Sheldon, and 9 month old Larry made the move with a nest egg of $50.00. They obtained a cabin occupied by Japanese Canadians during WWII and moved that to the acreage. Rose said they had two doors, one to enter and exit and the other used as a table top. They sat on apple boxes. They borrowed canvas camp cots for the children, Shirley and Sheldon were on opposite ends of one cot for a while. Larry slept in the box in which they had brought their linens from Sask. Jake’s and Rose’s bed was a homemade effort from a frame someone threw out, and some boards set across that, and some material sewn together after being stuffed with straw. With no teaching jobs available Jake and Rose earned some money doing farm and produce work. Rose remembers Larry crawling around in the dirt of an orchard floor while she picked fruit and by the end of a day, he was a mess and she was a neat freak. At the end of the day she would have to scrub the children’s’ clothes on a small washboard and she remembers screaming, “Why did I come to BC to do this?” But that feeling never lasted long. She told me that she never cried about her life. She always believed that tomorrow would be a better day. As she spoke to me I thought I was listening to a refrain from the Annie musical. And then she finished that segment of her narrative with, “We were happy!” Rose was a happy woman, the catalyst of happiness for others.
Eventually a teaching job and later a principalship opened to Jake.

She spoke about the limitations of sightlessness. She said, “I am okay as long as I have my music. If I didn’t have my music I’d go bonkers.” For her the golden years were with Jake, her husband, in the years following his retirement. They went on photographic trips together, daytrips and longer adventures. Ten years later at age 75 he died. Rose told me, “it seems like I have been without him all my life. I have had so many years on my own.” Perhaps her saddest loss was the death of her married daughter Shirley. They did so much together, canned together, and baked together. As she talked of it she said, “it makes me cry even now. She was taken from me.”

She said going to heaven was what she lived for now. She prayed for the time when God would come and pick her up, and there would be no more darkness, no more loneliness and everything would be right. She said that was the best thing that could happen. She said my children don’t want to me to say that, but it’s no fun for me here any more. I am 96 and I have had my days.

She told me, “You tell them when I am gone, that I can see.” So I am telling all of you. “Rose can see!” And it is Thanksgiving Sunday!!!

Listen and watch Wintley Phipps singing "It is well with my soul."

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