Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bright lipstick and big earrings

Listen to this post:

Today, she was sitting up, her back toward me, as I wandered into her sterile home of the last week. The icu (intensive-care unit) is not a place anyone should spend that much time. At least she was out of bed and the nasty tube that had looked like a hasty trach, out of her chest. I understood it performed some necessary function, but its placement and subsequent bruising only added to my friend's smallness.

Patia is, by no means, a small person. She's 5'10", vivacious as a toddler, with a booming voice and a heart of gold. In her weeks of revolving-door visits to the er, the fourth floor, and, now, the icu, she has captivated the nursing staff and her docs. But not this week.

I have watched this shiny, radiant soul tear up, wail and wonder what God is asking of her. In the ten years of our friendship, it's been apparent that knowing what God wants in her life is her anchor.

When I discerned and was clear to lead a spiritual-nurture group for adults and kids, Patia briskly walked over to me, plopped down, looked me in the eyes and said "God says I'm supposed to be in this group." I believed her and only mentioned that I wanted it to be for her and not because she felt the children needed her. She has been our child caregiver at the Quaker meetinghouse for those ten years and watched my Lily in our home over two years as I attended nurture school periodically in Philadelphia.

I've never known anyone else named Patia and I've never known anyone like Patia. She's not every adult's cup of tea ... unless you take the time to know her. Young children gravitate to her and their parents eventually figure out why. Patia is a child in a way most adults are not. She doesn't realize she's shouting when she's especially joyful. She lives simply, loves fully and is immune to contrived social nuances. I'd stop short of saying what you see is what you get, because she has depth, drive, determination and strives to learn. She "gets" more than most adults realize. She worked for a degree in early-childhood education over the course of years and with measured perseverance. That may not sound like much until you understand she fought her way out of special education in high school, cheered by her mentor, her grandmother. She asked the school to outline the steps necessary to move up and met those benchmarks.

In her mid 50s, she bought her first house and meticulously cares for it, along with her beloved companion dog. She was married young until she felt her husband wilted her independent spirit. She says God did not bless them with children, but gave her so many more working in daycare and privately.

She has taught me so much about faith, listening to God and keeping a steady path. Which is why it pains me to see her questioning, let alone hurting. From personal experience, I know this is part of the spiritual journey. It's just kinda hard when your role model appears human.

Patia's medical problems stem from her heart, but so does her whole being. I am prayerful she is being reshaped carefully and look forward to the return of her boisterousness.

• Who inspires my faith?
• What examples of faithfulness have I witnessed?
• Have can I apply those to myself?
• What happens when I look deeper into people?
• What have I learned from unexpected sources?

red-headed and bubbly
bright lipstick and big earrings

that's how I remember
my friend

the long face and tears
are just temporary

as she gives into
the pain of the repair
of an out-of-sync heart

today, I told her
she is loved just as
she is, in this moment
of streaked cheeks
and little hope

God is big enough
to hold it all and
restore it all

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