The car that friends have kindly loaned us has become erratic with occasional asthmatic spasms as the engine threatens to give out and (more worrying still) we face braking problems too. Carol has refused to drive it (are you surprised) which means yesterday I was her chauffeur. She went back to hospital to see her doctor for an annual checkup and for her mammogram (courtesy of enforced Medicare enrolment!) As soon as she entered the main doors a chorus of welcomes greeted her from two friends manning the welcome desk. Carol was a volunteer in palliative care for 10 years and made such good friendships with other volunteers that conversation immediately hit deep pockets as she asked about family members by name and they reciprocated. I was stunned as memories worked overtime. They similarly welcomed me but as an attachment to the main attraction.
Appointments spanned 3 hours so there was time for lunch in the hospital cafeteria. As Carol asked for a tuna sandwich the server lit up in recognition and showered Carol with welcomes. Paying at the till the clerk similarly shone in surprise and gushed warm welcomes. When you think that Carol only worked there one day a week and finished there 3 years ago it says volumes about her gift of friendship.
But the icing on the cake was a meeting in the corridor as we were leaving when the Senior Spiritual Advisor to the hospital greeted Carol as a long-lost friend and shared how they had never been able to find anyone else willing to visit the dying as Carol had. 'We really miss you - you are irreplaceable,' he said. Alongside I glowed at the joy of her being remembered well.
Later we visited three friends in their 80's and 90's at Windsor Manor Park residential community. Again, the sense of being intertwined in Christian friendship in deeper ways really nourished spirit. I felt great pride in following Carol as she re-entered her US world.