Many times I have taken “God-moments,” for granted. I know they happen but most often I label them as a coincidence or just a part of everyday life. What is a God-moment? You know those times when you are in the right place at the right time. Or when you meet someone in a random way and a connection is made so that you remain intrinsically linked for life. Or maybe you reach out and assist someone who really needs it and in that moment it feels like God put you in their life for a reason. This past week, I experienced a God-moment x 2 with two very different 90-year old women. And yes, both meetings happened along the way of my everyday life.
During our walk, she asked me to guess how old she was and mentioned that she might be around 80 years of age. She said that she was 93 years old. Well she did not look to be that many years old. We continued to chat and she told me that she was a native of France but had lived in the states for 60 years. Her accent was still very prominent so our chat was filled with the sound of her wonderfully accented voice. She told me that she had exercised in the pool that morning and thought that might be the reason for the dizziness. Too much exercise had made her weak. Would I like to see the pool at her residence, she asked? Sure I replied. She informed me that she lived at the Princess Martha Hotel, which had been converted into a retirement community. As we entered the building, time stopped. This hotel or residence had been restored to an earlier era and was beautifully decorated with chandeliers, tassels and brocades galore. It was lovely. She showed me all around and finally we found the pool. As we discussed the merits of the pool area, she asked me if I would like to see her apartment. Absolutely was my response and off we went. On our way up the elevator, she finally asked for my name and when I said, Denise, she smiled and said that she was so happy my name was Denise. She went on to explain that her older sister’s name was Denise. She told me that her name was, Odette, just like the dancer in Tchaikovsky’s Ballet, Swan Lake. When we finally arrived at her apartment, Odette was proud that she had chosen to live her later years in a monastic manner. She exclaimed, “I hate clutter!” Everything was very orderly and very simply decorated. After a bit, our conversation turned to family and she said that she grew up one of seven children during the war. Her father had died suddenly, leaving her mother to focus all of her attention on raising the children in a very hard time. It was sad and Odette said she made the decision, at that early age, that she did not want that kind of life. She was never married however shared that she had “lived in sin” for a while. Of course she said that is what “they” used to call it years ago and now everyone does it. I loved her candor and willingness to share those memories with me. She revealed that she had been feeling sad and lonely earlier in the day but felt that her sister Denise was close and trying to comfort her. She was convinced that her guardian angel had sent another Denise to lighten her day. We both agreed that this incidental meeting had been a God-thing. As she walked me out of the building, she gave me her phone number so that we could stay in touch. Odette indicated that we would go to lunch soon. She had just the place in mind and would call me in a couple of weeks to make a date. I look forward to getting to know this sweet, strong and lovely woman.
The second God-moment happened on my Saturday morning walk. I usually walk in a neighborhood around the corner from where I live, which means I regularly walk past Eleanor’s home on the corner. Sometimes she is sitting outside drinking a beer or reading a paper. In passing, we greet each other and comment on the nice day. However this day, I decided to go and chat with her for a bit. Maybe, my experience with Odette and her feelings of loneliness were still fresh in my mind, which pushed to visit with my neighbor more than usual. After discussing the weather, she filled me in on her recent circumstances regarding her nephew, who had withheld some of her mail and had his sights set on taking some of her property. She voiced her frustration in his dishonest actions and how she was addressing these issues. The conversation evolved into stories about her life, her philanthropy, family and her struggles to decide how to disburse her legacy. Her life story had encompassed working for a president in D. C., teaching school in California, and being the first Black women to work for the City of St. Pete. We decided that it was a good idea to exchange contact information in case she needed any assistance. However, first she wanted me to help her with some issues on her iPhone. Finally, having dealt with the phone issues, I took my leave with the promise to see her the next day during my usual walk.
These two women are both engaging personalities and full of life in spite of the 90 plus years. When I told my friend about my interaction with these two lively women, she said there are two options in life, “you can get busy living or you can get busy dying.” These two women are both busy living their lives in meaningful ways. I am so grateful that God introduced me to these beautiful courageous women, who have lived long lives and continue to engage the world on their terms. Moments such as these make life so much richer and fulfilling for me! Thank you Odette and Eleanor for giving me an opportunity to be a part of your life!