Brenda and Greta on her 90th birthday
Picture a young girl of eight or nine standing in the aisle after church. Disabled by crippling shyness, she stares at an older lady. Her enormous brown eyes, her only redeeming feature, are covered with glasses, and she shifts her chubby body from foot to foot as she waits. The elderly lady chats animatedly with the friends who surround her. Nearing her eighties, she looks regal with her white hair, classy coat dress and pumps.
Several minutes pass, but some slight movement draws Myrtle's attention to the young girl, and she smiles with all the warmth in her. Putting her hand on the girl's shoulder, she turns to her friends and says, "This is my pet."
The sun breaks through the clouds and shines brilliantly.
This scene played out every week. I would wait shamelessly for my fix. I knew the script--it never changed--but every time, it filled a void in me, and I went away satisfied. Until next week.
That lady was my cheerleader. She loved me with an unconditional love that fed my soul. We didn't have a lot of relationship other than those moments in the church aisle, although I remember once she sent me a card with Philippians 4:6 on it. She put lines in pencil to keep her writing even, and then erased them. She used The Living Bible, which was radical for a lady of her age at that time. "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God what you need, and don't forget to thank him for his answers."1 She had me pegged. The consummate worrier, this became one of my life verses.
She died when I was in my early teens, and I was afraid to go to the funeral home alone. I went for a walk to the shores of Lake Ontario, just a few blocks away, and sat on the rocks and cried. That was my good-bye.
Picture a widow who just lost her husband of 30 years. She is lonely, confused and disoriented. Her friend takes her everywhere, just for company, and often Greta comes along. In her mid-eighties, she is a petite dynamo, ready to go shopping or out for lunch at any time.
My own mother died many years ago, and Greta adopted me. I see the compassion in her eyes as I talked through my pain with my friend, Brenda. Greta loved it when we went shopping (I hate to shop) and would look diligently for clothes that would suit my body and my budget. She was so excited when we found a bargain, and would exclaim over and over how good I looked in it.
Greta was a cheerleader.
When the news came to her, through Brenda, that I had met and married someone, she was delighted. I was thrilled to introduce my husband to my tiny encourager. Her grin couldn't have stretched wider.
The last few years, Greta slowed down. Her 90th birthday was a celebration of her delightful self, and just a few months later, on Saturday, she left us. But her heritage and her influence to her family will always remain.
And to me.
I think, maybe, God is calling me to be a cheerleader. It doesn't come naturally to me like it did to Myrtle and Greta, but I will ask Him to show me the lonely, shy or frightened person who needs someone to love them unconditionally and thoroughly.
And I will cheer.