The predicament: Graduation from college required the successful completion of an internship program. My placement was at a mega-church (essentially a small town within a city) where I would have music and leadership responsibilities. This could not have been more terrifying unless you considered the part where I was to live in a stranger’s home for the summer. Not an ounce of my self-esteem avoided being pummelled by the prospect.
But then, my self-esteem hadn’t yet encountered Sue.
Sue is my mom’s age, and she greeted me at the door with a musical “Welcome, welcome!” Within the first hour, we were sitting down to a proper cup of tea served in china mugs, with lemon and honey on the side. It didn’t take us long to determine that we were going to “eat healthy” that summer, and moments later we decided that could indeed include dessert once in a while (like, every day). We talked of English country gardens, my love of cats and her allergies to them. There was enough bric-a-brac in her little house with its tiny yard to furnish a garden store.
She is a good cook, though sometimes her creations challenged my prepackaged palate. I watched her fashion a stew from aromatics, fish and tomatoes. We had it over rice, and it was gobsmacking delicious. My life as a single woman became defined by that dish, (until the day my association with it changed because I almost burned down an entire apartment building while making it–but we don’t need to go into that).
I recall a tale of a ball at Windsor castle, and I surmised she must have been SomeOneSpecial. She was so casual about it all, without a whisper of arrogance. We were simply sharing life stories, and this had been a moment in hers. But I was wonderstruck.
She IS SomeOneSpecial but not because of where she’s been and who she’s met. She simply is, because she’s Sue. And she taught me that I am SomeOneSpecial as well, because I’m Crystal.
Oh how I love her. And, in truth, I’m still wonderstruck.
There were some things I said about my life to which she only replied, “hmmmm.” I soon learned that “hmmmming” was her way of asking me to think about what I’d said without actually asking.
She wasn’t given to disparaging words. I, however, was. She hmmm’d often.
Sue exchanged recorded letters with her best friend, and when the bulky envelopes arrived, Sue retired early. I know that she couldn’t wait to hear what her Diana wanted to say and I enviously wondered what it was that made such a friendship. Sue was constantly musing about what she’d tell Diana. I think they “chatted” every evening. Eventually I realized they were so close because they had chosen to be.
That summer we managed to pull off a birthday party for her. Sue expressed such joy at being surprised, honest delight in her friends, and genuine appreciation for our efforts. She knows how to accept a gift, and how to honour the giver. Just a few days ago, Sue celebrated another birthday. I won’t give away her age, but will say that I have appreciated her wisdom and her counsel for a very long time.
I took many challenges and complex issues to her at the beginning, before I developed the maturity to handle them myself. And while there were many “hmmms,” she never made me feel as though my problems were insurmountable. She was who I needed those days, and her example changed my life.
Her trust in God’s sovereignty is steadfast. That isn’t to say everything has been easy, for I know there have been significant trials strewn along her path. But I have never known her to waver living a life consistent with the faith she proclaims. She does so quietly and joyfully. This quality is precious, and it is rare.
I don’t see her often now, but she has woven her life tapestry with mine. Her threads have shaded and contoured my world in the most wonderful ways.
“Live what you say you believe,” she never said.
I love her all the more because of it.