This is a continuation of the story which was posted on Monday, August 22, 2011.
The hallway to her apartment was long but well kept. I saw her in the distance and waved. She waved too.
As I got closer I said, “You look so nice. Did you get dressed up just for me?” She was wearing ear rings and an attractive short sleeve sweater that complemented a patterned skirt. She admitted that she had changed her sweater but said it was because the other one was too hot.
I said that if I had no plans for the day I wondered if I would just stay in my nightgown. She said that when she has no plans she gets up later but she always gets dressed. “If I don’t, something always happens.”
As we found seats in her apartment I commented that she had rearranged the furniture. She said her daughter had done that. As usual, her apartment appeared well attended. A refreshing breeze was felt from the screened patio door. Bouquets of fresh fall flowers were attractively placed on tables.
As we settled, she asked about my mother and my friend. It is hard to beat Hedvig to the punch, which is always other oriented. I had previously asked her to pray about both. She listened carefully and then confessed that it is harder to cope when you get older.
I asked Hedvig to explain what she meant, “It’s harder because you don’t have the physical strength…to talk to yourself… to reason it out and…”she gave up on trying to explain and concluded, “It’s only the Lord that can help you through it.”
She then became intent on telling me that when I had last spoken at our Senior Seminar, which she had attended, she had heard every word I had said. She was so thrilled with this and felt so blessed.
She went on to tell of another speaker that she wasn’t able to follow. She said she thought she was limited in her understanding. I said, “No, I don’t think that is the case.”
I then offered, “It might be the speed at which the content is delivered.” Hedvig immediately embraced this as the answer. “If I could hear it again and have time with it I would be able to understand it.”
She then became deliberate in her intention to change the subject. “I shouldn’t talk about my hearing problems.”
I asked, “Why not? You are here to teach me. I am here to learn.”
She elaborated, “I have had many blessings and when I concentrate on my hearing loss they sort of get in the background. The big thing with focusing on my hearing is that it takes the place of the joy I should have in the Lord.”
We both sat quietly for awhile. I then asked her if she was 95 years old or 96 years old. She said she was 95 in May. This was October.
She knew I wanted to know what it was like to be 95 so she said, “I wonder in the morning if I am able to get up or not? When I get up I feel better. I do one thing and then I do the other, praying, Lord, help me not to fall.
I have rods I hang on to and when I make it out of the bath tub I know I can make it today, too, but you have to take the first step in faith. The Lord answers prayer.”
Most of the time a visit to Hedvig includes some memories of her son, Drew, who because she had the measles during her pregnancy with him, was heartbreakingly impaired. My picture of him is a boy and then a man who functioned marginally, unable to speak discernable words, but carried a Bible and clapped his hands to demonstrate that he could discern spiritual truth. Drew was born in 1942 and died in 1987 at the age of 45. For the last 12 years of Drew’s life, Hedvig cared for him as a widow as her husband, Andrew, of whom she has cherished memories, died in 1975.
In reflecting on Drew, Hedvig said quietly, “You don’t need much intelligence to know the Lord. His spirit wasn’t affected by the measles.”
I said, “Won’t it be wonderful to meet him now that he is healthy?”
Hedvig then began to think of his spirit rejoicing in the presence of the Lord now and as she pictured this she broke into song in her native Norwegian language. Usually, we can converse a little in Norwegian as I know some basic words but this time she used words that I did not know. As she sang and imagined her son, without his disabilities, her face seemed to take on a glow. I tried to understand what she was describing but she explained they were uncommon Norwegian words that I wouldn’t know but that I should try to learn. I suggested glory, awe, praise, but none seemed to satisfy her as a fit. She said there were some Norwegian words for which she couldn’t find an English translation. I said, “Maybe in English we try to explain too much. Maybe more has to be left to mystery.”
She didn’t comment on that but instead continued to sing, obviously struggling to remember the words to some of the songs that were coming back to her. When she finished the singing she smiled warmly and said, “Just think, it’s almost a hundred years since I learned those songs in school. It’s not funny I can’t remember.”
This story will be concluded on Friday, August 26.