This ‘Christmas’ cactus sits on a table tucked into the bay window in my study. Of course it blooms when it wants to, which is not necessarily at Christmastime. The cactus was given to me by two friends as a housewarming present when I moved back to Nova Scotia from Ontario.
Both of these women were part of my formal discernment process as I explored a call to ordained ministry; through that process we became close friends and kept in touch throughout my years of study and when I moved to Ontario to begin my first appointment as a minister, 1800 kilometers from all that was familiar, both of them came to visit that first summer, although not together.
One of them died a little over a year ago and every time I look at the cactus I am reminded of her. Sheila was of a woman of deep faith, although like many of Scottish background, reserved about it except with people she knew well. Like the cactus, Sheila could seem to be prickly at times, but those of us who knew her well, knew that her prickliness covered a heart of great tenderness and generosity. If you look closely at the picture, you see a blossom reflected in the glass table top. Sheila reflected love and faithfulness combined with practicality.
I don’t know if Sheila knew how much of an impact she had on my ministry. When I presided at my first funeral, while still a student and feeling ill-equipped, she gave me a button to put in the pocket of my alb as a reminder that there were others who thought I was very equipped. I found out later that it was a button from a dress that Sheila’s mother had been making for her when she died. The dress was never finished, but Sheila had kept it all the years since, knowing that love was stitched into the very seams. She wanted me to have a tangible reminder of her love to carry me that day. Little did she know that I would carry that button in the pocket of my alb for years, always a touchstone for me, particularly when I felt inadequate or for difficult funerals.
The button is on the table with the cactus right now, by chance, perfectly lined up between the blossom and its reflection. In fact, the reflection is clearer than the blossom in the picture. Isn't that often true, we don't see our own beauty and truth clearly until it is reflected back to us by someone who knows and loves us? Beauty and practicality, love reflected in ways unimaginable, that was my friend Sheila. I miss her.
And that's my window on God's world.