This is the conclusion of a story which first posted on Monday, August 22, 2011 and continued on Wedesday, August 24, 2011.
With a look that betrayed this next idea as part of a plan, Hedvig asked me if I would like some tea. I glanced into her spotless kitchen and at her fragile frame and said, “No, but thank you.”
A determined look replaced the earlier gentle approach and she asked in a way that answered itself, “You won’t let me serve you?”
I then said, “I would love some tea.” I smiled as I remembered we were instructed as children to always decline a first invitation for food or drink (even if we were hungry or thirsty) and then accept graciously but be sure to leave a little on the plate so the hostess would know we had had enough. Is this just a Norwegian custom? I don’t know.
Hedvig declined my offer to help and began setting her table with fine imported dishes. Small plates were set out for pound cake and a tea pot with a cozy. A small silver tray with a sugar bowl and cream pitcher soon joined the lot with carefully folded napkins at the side of the plates. I asked if I could play some Norwegian music on her CD player and she said I could go ahead. “You’ll figure out how it works.”
We sat down at the table and together recited the Norwegian Table Prayer. As we enjoyed our tea she started talking about Andrew and her girls. “Oh, how crazy he was about those girls. (Two girls who are now about my age completed the family of five.) When the girls wanted to go shopping they always wanted to go with their dad because nothing was “too good for his girls.” She smiled and admitted, “I was always a little more careful.” Hedvig then commented about how wonderful these girls still were to her. I knew that because I see the diligence with which they care for her and the time they spend with her. As we finished our tea, I said, “This apartment is so peaceful.”
Then, in a way that would open the door for her to say more I said, “I imagine you would like to live here as long as you can.”
“Yes, I would. But the Lord knows. I have such wonderful girls.”
I said, “I suppose when you need to you will live with one of them.”
She said, “Yes, she supposed that would be the way but she preferred being on her own if she could.”
I was grateful that either way would be a good experience as the relationships are strong and the love evident. Both are proud of their mother and she is proud of them. If the corner of moving from this apartment needs to be turned, it will be done with the simple elegance that characterizes this family. I looked at my watch and told her I needed to go. I asked if I could help clean up the dishes and she stated the obvious, “No, just leave everything.”
I did leave everything, but I didn’t leave unchanged. I had revisited my childhood and I was grateful, I had learned from a child of God that leaves everything with Him, and I had been reminded that glimpses of eternity cannot be expressed in words, at least not English words.