I’ve mentioned how much I love Cara Strickland’s writing before, so you can imagine how thrilled I am to have her over as a guest for part of the Words That Changed My World Series. I think you will love her too. Yes, I am sure of it.
I sit at a table in a favorite coffee shop, flooded with early spring sunlight. My hands wrap around a large white mug filled with a coconut latte. I am waiting for someone.
The past few months have been a lot for my heart. I’m hoping that this meeting will help me in the healing process.
She arrives, bringing her own coffee. We begin to talk.
She is the pastor of a local Lutheran church. We have a mutual friend. As I unpacked some of my pieces in front of that friend, she suggested that I meet this woman. Now, here we are. My friend was right.
I tell her my story, packing in as much as I can and making myself late for work. I tell her that I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to church yet. I tell her that I need to heal.
“What I’d really like,” she says, “Is to forge a friendship with you.” She hugs me and we part, but before I leave she says, “be well.”
I walk to my car, still wrapped in a jacket, thinking about those words. They are not a wish or a hope, or even a suggestion. They are a benediction. They are an amen.
I hear those words ring in my head as I stop for a moment, letting the sun touch my skin. I hear them as I buy a bunch of daffodils, fold my newly fluffed laundry and sit around a table of friends, eating a meal I didn’t cook. I let them float effortlessly into my subconscious as I choose to go to sleep when I am tired, or climb into yoga clothes, my car and the gym.
At different times, the Spirit has spoken in different ways. I am often caught off guard by the whispers. Lately, many of those whispers have been coming from women who are walking the journey with me, who link arms, who serve me the Eucharist, as I kneel at the rail, who remind me that sometimes, I need only to open my mouth, the words will come forth in their time. Over the years, I have embraced several women, writers and poets, as my pastors and priests. Perhaps this is why I feel so at home with this new person and her words. I have always had women offering up benedictions alongside me, whispering the words they’ve heard from the Spirit in my ear.
The days are warmer now, and I worry less about whether the sun will come out each day. I am still not ready to venture back into church, not just yet. She seems to understand. We email and set up another time to meet. Be well, she says. Try to get outside today.
We have lunch with her son. All day long, he calls me Caroline. She pauses to correct him, gently, each time.
After lunch, we walk to the park and watch as our young companion works out some of his energy. The sun warms our backs and I stand beside her as she pushes him on a swing.
As she lets me talk, it is as if she cups her hands and lets my words fall into them: safe, held and precious. She is gentle with me, and we laugh softly together sometimes, as we look at the broken places. I tell some of my stories and she tells me some of hers. Sometimes we sigh.
As she buckles her son into his carseat, she tells me that she will pray for me. We have talked about some of the things ahead, the decisions, the transitions, the hope. She hugs me once more before she leaves and says be well, three times, the way you do when you want words to linger after you’re gone, the way you say I love you, or take care. She rolls down her window so that her son can tell me goodbye. “Bye Caroline!”
I wave at him and smile.
As I drive home, I say those words: be well, aloud in my car, like a benediction, like an amen.
A note from Cara: I’m Cara Strickland. When you first meet me, you might think that I’m quiet or reserved. I’m still learn-ing how to relax my fingers, gripping tightly to how it should look and how I should be. I’d love to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine with you, to gradually pull out a few of my broken pieces, matching them up with yours and watching them sparkle in the light. You can connect with me on my blog, Little Did She Know, or over on Twitter.