“Shall we go outside and sit in the sun?”
I’m in Arizona, and I’d rather sit anywhere else than in the sun. Though it was late September, temperatures were in the mid-90s. Sitting under a cloudless sky with an afternoon sun baking my skull and turning my balding head bright red didn’t sound like anything I wanted to do. I had hoped for a nice table inside the air-conditioned restaurant, but she suggested that on such a lovely day we should sit on the patio. I couldn’t say no.
We moved slowly to the patio. She glanced around, “Hmm ... there are lots of choices.”
“You choose,” I offered, while looking longingly at the table under the shady mesquite tree. It wasn’t meant to be, of course. She pointed at the table near the edge of the patio, pristine white in the brilliant sunlight. “We’re in luck,” she smiled. “A table in the sunshine with a lovely view of the mountains.”
Great. Lucky us.
I’d known her many years before when I briefly served a church she attended. She was now skin and bones, looking sickly. She had aged severely. I remembered her as sweet-hearted and kind. She had taken me to lunch a few times back in the day, but the church had long since closed. We hadn’t kept in contact, but we crossed paths at a funeral, and she suggested we have lunch.
Walking slowly with the aid of a walker, she struggled to make her way to the table. Once we were seated, the server brought water and asked if we might be more comfortable in the shade. We would have been.
“Oh, no,” she laughed, “this is perfect! We were just talking about getting the best seat in the house.” The server shrugged, took our drink orders, and wandered off. “So, how are you? What is God doing in your life? It’s been a long time.” Joy filled her eyes.
It had been a long time. I gave her a quick review of the highlights. We paused to order. She asked for a bowl of the albondigas. “Soup warms my bones,” she said.
Perspiration trickled down my neck and stained my shirt. I mopped my forehead and wondered if she’d noticed. She didn’t mention it. She pointed out the Cooper’s hawk circling high in the blueness above. We watched it plunge toward the horizon and disappear into the distance. “Gorgeous creatures, aren’t they.”
They are, but I was miserable. The food came. She barely touched hers. “I don’t have much of an appetite,” she explained. “I’m full of cancer.” She added matter-of-factly, “I probably won’t be around much longer. Soup is about all I can stomach these days.”
What do you say to that? I couldn’t find my voice.
“Don’t look so sad.” She smiled. “It’s a lovely day. The sun is shining. We got to watch that beautiful hawk. I got to reconnect with an old friend. God is being so good to me. Tell me more about your church.”
I didn’t know what to talk about. I picked at my salad and answered her cheerful questions. The server cleared our bowls. She asked him for the check.
“Let me get it,” I pleaded.
“Not a chance.” She laughed. “Just look at you. You’re burning up in this hot sun. Don’t think I didn’t notice. Yet you never said a word. Thank you for that. With this awful disease, I just can’t stay warm. The least I can do is buy your lunch.”
She did. It was the last time I saw her.