Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"...One of the Least of These ..."

I came home early this evening and my eyes went involuntarily to her window.

She was not there.

Of course she's not, I reproached myself, shaking my head impatiently. When I had left the TH at 10 o'clock this morning there had been an ambulance outside and a police car across the road.

When I returned, slightly over an hour later, the two vehicles had been joined by a hearse. Her body, blanketed and anonymous, was being carefully lifted into the back of it.

Her two daughters, unable to watch, walked to her back patio, where I went to see them and offer what comfort I could. 

As I held the younger one, she apologized for the shock of my having to drive back to this. "We believe she went peacefully in her sleep," she whispered.

My relationship with Colleen was all but non-existent. She was in the TH twice; I spoke to her once about her dog roaming around on my driveway doing what dogs do; I waved at her a few times.

And every time I came home from somewhere, as I pulled into the car port my eyes almost subconsciously went straight to her window. Nine times out of ten she would be at it, watching me arriving, watching me unloading, watching me sitting in my car listening to the tail end of whatever was on the radio or wrapping up a phone conversation.

Morning, noon or night - it made no difference. There she invariably was.

At first I was annoyed. I felt spied upon. Then for a short period of time I felt a little creeped out by what I perceived to be her unwavering stare, her unbudging presence.

Gradually I grew used to it. I would occasionally raise a hand or nod in the direction of the window.

She got sick. She stopped smoking. Oxygen became her new drug of choice, her constant companion.

She started to appear at the window with less regularity.

But I never thought - if I thought much about it at all - that the last glimpse I would have of her would be enshrouded, on this long-awaited sunny Tuesday morning, her destination the hospital and her final examination.

I went into the TH and was rebuked by the words that jolted me like a slap stinging my cheek:

Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

The words were from the gospel of Matthew chapter 25 and verse 45. I am very familiar with verse 40 of the same chapter, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

If I am honest with myself, I might have slapped myself mentally on the back now and then, congratulating myself for some random act of kindness I might have performed. One of the least of these, I can hear myself thinking, perhaps even smugly.

But seeing Colleen today; seeing her daughters, distraught, no chance to say goodbye; seeing the compassion of the female RCMP officer, the dignity accorded to my neighbour by the paramedics and the funeral home representative, all pierced through the membrane of complacency that I have allowed to form around me.

I collapsed into one of the purple chairs as those words tumbled pell-mell around my brain. One of the least of these ... Me. I gasped as I thought of the implications of these words.

Why had I never gone to visit her? Why had I never reached out to her when I would see her slowly taking a turn with the walker and the tank, or when I knew she had had to get rid of her dog? Why would I brush her off as an inevitable minor annoyance when I would see her standing at the window?

Why didn't I bother with her?

My treatment of her, Jesus said, is my treatment of Him.

To the extent that I made no effort at all to get to know her, I made no effort to get to know Him.

Faithful to the end: her patio dog
holds a lamp, bringing into stark relief
the darkness all around tonight
When I would roll my eyes at her unblinking stare out her window, I was rolling my eyes at Him keeping me in His sights.

When I rejected relationship with her, I rejected Him.

This evening, as the clock approaches midnight,
O Lord Jesus, I ask Your forgiveness
for being irritated with You
for questioning Your motives
for rejecting You.

For not recognizing You in the eyes
of the frightened little lady
who lived, alone, next door


  1. Karyn, I have felt the same way at times when I neglected to show kindness to "one of the least of these" as well. I guess we just forget how fragile life is when we are busy. Hugs to you!

  2. "Every Stranger's eyes . . ."

  3. I'm so sorry, Karyn. Thank you for the good reminder not to pass Love by. It made me immediately think of the people I know. ...
    I'm sure that you added interest and a sparkle to Colleen's life. It never feels like enough, but perhaps you gave what you could, like a broken jar of perfume spilling out fragrance.
    God be with you as you grieve. Love you!

  4. this is hauntingly beautiful - and exactly what i needed to read today. thank you for being so transparent and vulnerable.

    those purple chairs seem to be a place to meet His unrelenting love.

    love to you, friend.

  5. As I sit here, subdued and feeling disappointed in me, I find myself wanting to "stick up" for you, Karyn. You are kind and caring of so many people. How could you add yet another to your long list of friends and acquaintances?

    Then I am jolted into reality . . . MY reality . . . and realize that I am disappointed in me because I, too, overlook the needy around me at times. I know that feeling of annoyance, major or minor and the accompanying guilt. I am reminded once again to love as Jesus loves and to reach out to those who may not know the far-reaching-ness of Jesus.

    I will yield to this reminder and pledge anew to be His messenger of love to those around me. As for sticking up for you, Karyn, I'm thankful for the picture of Jesus you are to me and to many around you. Your reward will be great. May we all be more sensitive to His promptings.

    I love you!

  6. Very touching--a good rebuke for me as well.

  7. A good lesson indeed for all of us... returning a smile ( or being polite and kind ) is charity and it doesn't even cost we must give as much as we can...

  8. Very touching and honest. Thank you for this reminder to reach out to others. Perhaps your reach is to her daughters.

  9. Our Father, because of His grace, opens our eyes - all of us - to see ourselves as He sees - praise Him for His unfailing forgiveness. I stand rebuked with you, and trust Him for the days ahead.

  10. As I sit here and read this, I also think there are things in my life that I could have done...but then I'm reminded of something. You can't be everything to everyone. You are already an amazing person and do so much for those around you. You can only do so much...or touch so many lives. There's only so much you can give before you are stretched beyond your means.

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