A couple of weeks ago, on a cool and breezy morning, Blossom and I drove down to the waterfront for coffee. She needed time out of the house with her sweet baby girl, and I needed time away from my desk.
We chose an outdoor table with room for Cully May's pram to stand beside us, and gave our order to the waitress, all the while breathing in the fresh sea air and letting the wind swirl around us.
It was wonderfully refreshing already, evidenced by our synchronised sighs of satisfaction and shoulders which softened and relaxed. Even though Blossom had barely slept the night before I could see her eyes lift and her lips widen to a satisfied smile. Time outside and away from housework and the business had been the perfect diversion we both needed.
The coffee arrived and between sips we chatted about the baby, life, God, and everything else. When you're tired and weary conversations tends to hold no straight path, but glide from topic to topic with seeming ease...and nobody minds. Such it was for us that morning.
Gathering little Cully May into her arms for a cuddle, we moved the pram behind us to allow an elderly lady and her husband to move past us to the table in front. The woman held tightly to a walking frame and shuffled uncomfortably as her sweet husband gently urged her forward. Her repeated response was 'where's my handbag?' and time after time he assured her it was safe.
With grace and loving dignity, the dear husband assisted his wife from the frame to a seat. Speaking soft and assuring words to give her confidence in letting go of the frame and leaning instead on his own battle scarred arm while he took her weight and gently lowered her into the chair, he appeared to myself and Blossom as a hero.
The man turned to us, and with a lovely smile and nod of his head, apologised for interrupting our chatter and for having to move the pram in order to seat his wife. We assured him it was fine, and with conversation now open he introduced himself and his wife as "Mary and Fred".
His deep love and delight in Mary warmed our hearts. As he continued to settle her we learned that she had Alzhiemers, that he was her carer, and that when she was young she had a zest for life and they had travelled far and wide over many decades and many continents. They'd reared three children and Mary had gone into labour two weeks early with each child after mowing their vast lawn. She was energetic, vibrant, and fun.
Fred still saw all this in his beloved wife, though without him painting that vibrant and fresh picture of Mary to us we would have been blind to it. We would only have seen a ravaged woman of 80, eyes darting everywhere as she continued to ask "where's my handbag?'.
Our little egnagement of conversation ran along for about half an hour. Fred cut Mary's piece of orange poppyseed cake into small pieces and handed them to her, including her always in our conversation though she seemed unaware of it. "I need to take her out each day, it helps. We couldn't go yesterday, so today it's even more important that she enjoy her outing", said he.
Blossom asked Fred questions about himself, and that's when we saw even more of a hero in this lovely man. He's got cancer and is undergoing chemo, all the while caring for his wife.
Standing up, Fred turned to us and asked if we'd watch Mary whilst he went and paid their bill. "She's apt to wandering away" came his explanation. 'Of course', said we, so as he stood in line at the counter inside the cafe we chatted to Mary about her life, her children, and what a wonderful thing to be loved so much, and how that means she was a wife who would be treasured always.
Mary watched us as we talked to her, and she smiled.
Fred returned and sat again to wait for Mary to finish her last piece of cake. Blossom settled Cully May in her pram and we gathered our bags to leave. Turning to Fred and Mary we said goodbye and wished them a lovely day.
Fred smiled and said, "Thank you for talking to us."
Walking back to the car Blossom's eyes filled with tears and a few slid down my cheek.
I knew that we were blessed more than they. I knew that a life lesson on compassion, care, hospitality and selfless love had just been ours to receive.
Thank you Lord.