“Kay, how did you meet your husband?”
It was one of our tea dates and it was always Earl Grey. My favorite, and hers, we sat over floral teacups and homemade cake, sharing about life and talking about Jesus. Kay had just been given two months to live, the first time, and had decided not to go through chemotherapy because she’d watched the agony it put her husband, Gunnar, through. She had also lived 91 years and knew that Jesus had blessed her life in more ways than she knew. This was a different kind of waiting than any I can fathom, waiting to finish well. Yet in the waiting, Kay explained that she wanted to serve Jesus until He took her home. So while she waited and served, I basked in her friendship and asked for stories of her life. When I asked for wisdom, she’d blush and tell me that she’s made enough of her own mistakes. When I’d say that was the point, she’d grow quiet. But when asked a question, requested a story, I’d learn more than I could imagine.
“It was a green dress,” Kay explained, her eyes gazing into the distance as if she could see it, “the first time I put it on, I knew I would get married that year. I looked amazing.”
I laughed a little, not expecting the story to start quite like this. She continued simply, “Not too long after I first wore the dress, I met Gunnar. Then we got married.”
I never met Gunnar, he died from cancer before I met Kay. I imagine the love of their relationship, though, in how Kay loves others deeply and in how much she prays for younger, single women to be married. Kay frequently told me that she was praying for me and my friends that we would find godly men, marry them, and serve Jesus together. It never felt like a pressure, how words like that can upon the ears of an eager young, single woman. The way she spoke, the specific way she prayed, made me know that there was something beautiful to this gift, something that she believed so deeply in that she wanted It for us too.
Instead of offering more details of the time, place, and events of meeting Gunnar for the first time, Kay exclaimed: “Christine, you need to find a green dress! Then you will find your husband!”
This past Sunday, Pastor Miles preached a sermon on 1 Samuel 3. The focus of this passage is most commonly on the listening, readiness, and obedience of Samuel as he hears God’s voice, but Pastor Miles gave an additional challenge based off the role of Eli in the story. The text explains that Samuel didn’t yet know God or His voice, so when He calls, Samuel thinks that it’s his teacher, Eli’s, voice calling to him. Eli finally catches on and reveals to Samuel that it is God who is calling him. The one of the action steps of the message was this: if you are older and have been walking with God, help the younger generation recognize the voice of God.
I didn’t think that I was responding to any call of God that day when I went from Kay’s house directly to the clothing store following our tea. At the time, I knew it was my sense of processing the upcoming death of my friend and I wanted to honor her and listen to her advice. I did not find a dress that day, but what I did find was a friend who believed in and encouraged the longing of my heart to be married.
Six months went by and Kay continued to wait and serve Jesus. She traveled to visit family and she volunteered at the church. I worked and traveled through Europe, praying that I wouldn’t receive a phone call of sad news while I was away. I returned to the States and made the drive from my Pennsylvania home to Connecticut to visit my family and home church. Along the drive, I stopped at a mall for a snack and a restroom, along the way finding myself perusing the dress section of the department store with my cousin’s wedding in mind. My eyes fell on a beautiful green dress, the only one on the rack. The only one and it was in my size. I took it to the dressing room and slipped it on, laughing as it fell just perfectly around my waist. I smiled and couldn’t way to tell Kay, as she’d be the only one I would tell: a secret in the waiting.
Kay laughed with me and waited expectantly with me. When my cousin’s wedding came and I wore the dress for the first time, I felt beautiful. While getting ready, my aunt asked me a question that often comes up at family events like this, “Is there anyone that you have any interest in?” I thought about it for a moment and said “No.” She dug a little deeper: “Is there anyone that makes you heart race just a little?” My coyness got the best of me and I told her about my friend, Trent, who lived in the Philippines, but whose correspondence and encouragement made me happy every time I heard from him. My aunt smiled and said he sounded wonderful.
A week after the wedding, I Skyped with my friend from the other side of the world and he asked me what became a life-changing question: “Will you date me?”
Later, I excitedly announced to Kay, “The dress worked!”
Two weeks ago, Kay went to be with Jesus. She lived for two years past her initial diagnosis and during those two years was able to attend many weddings (mine, her grandchild’s, and our friend Megan’s) and she was able to share her life with many more people, including Trent! A couple of times since we’ve been married, Trent and I have, together, enjoyed the company of Kay over Earl Grey tea and cake.
There’s something rich that happens when 91 speaks into 26, when 92 drinks tea with 27, when 93 cheers on the marriage of 28. There’s a transfer of wisdom, of knowledge, and of life. When Kay died, I felt a piece of me went into the presence of Jesus too and it gives me hope. It gives me hope that what we believe and follow is true and it calls me to keep serving Jesus during my wait here on earth, until I stand in His presence myself.