Jill and John had the great idea of bringing lunch in for Ev. The three of them use to eat out together. When Jill told me to order a tuna sandwich at the drive up window at Subway, I was glad they wrapped it tightly
I have always hated tuna; tuna salad…tuna casserole… the smell of anything tuna… As a kid when my mom made tuna salad, I ate the special bowl of buttered noodles in the living room. I’ve spent my career as a pastor standing in potluck lines in churches across the state asking, “Is that tuna or chicken?” I’ve avoided tuna my entire life.
When we got to Ev’s place the four of us found a table, and I sat next to Ev as we all started to eat our sandwiches. I could smell the tuna that was barely an arm’s length away from me, but I steeled myself in silence knowing that at times the Lord calls all of us to be courageous.
Ev was having a hard time figuring out how to hold and eat her sandwich. I was the one sitting next to her who was in a place to help. Before I knew what I was doing, I offered to cut up her sandwich. Do you know what happens when you cut up a tuna sandwich with mayo and lettuce and tomatoes on it? That is right; you can’t help but get a little tuna on the fingers that are holding your knife and fork, no matter how discreetly you wipe your hands on a napkin. I’d like to say I enjoyed my turkey bacon and now TUNA sandwich, but that would be an infringement on one of those 10 commandments.
After we were finished eating, we listened to Ev tell stories from her life. Ev is a great storyteller: interesting, insightful and her stories always end with a laugh. Ev was telling us about a childhood memory… a story she had told us five minutes before, when she stopped, realizing she had just told this story. Then she said something like, “How can I remember something from a lifetime ago, but I can’t remember what I just ate for lunch?”
Many of us know the bittersweet lump in the throat that arises when someone we love and care for recognizes for themselves that they are not well… that they are struggling with memory loss, with a physical restriction, with an emotional barrier. But here is the thing I learned last Friday from Ev; she did not laugh this away, or go down the rabbit hole of despair or even try to hide the depth of this awareness from us. As I looked over at Ev’s eyes she seemed to recognize the truth in what she had just said and then…then she steeled herself with a courage that was palpable and told us another story that we had also heard earlier…this one about her grandsons….it was a great story…I was glad I was there to hear it.
There are times when it is worth having something like the smell of tuna fish on your fingers in order have the privilege to be present with others in their moment of self-awareness…and then to witness the courage to remain engaged in life as Ev did last Friday.
Keep the Faith,