I don’t know if you would remember me or not but I remember you. I was 7 or maybe 8 when you started coming to our tiny little church and you must have been in your 60s. I noticed you because were tall with wiry, wavy gray hair slicked down with gel, looking dapper in your pressed suit. There were at most 70 people in the sanctuary on a Sunday in those days, so anyone new really stuck out. I think my mom met you first and we started sitting with you. She told me in private that you probably needed a friend or two. I asked my mom with childlike bluntness why you talked funny and walked funny. My mom said you were born with something called Cerebral Palsy and it made you very special. That was good enough for me; you were one of the only adults that ever noticed me and you treated me like I was your equal.
Somehow you knew that I was kind of shy as a kid and needed time to sniff you out, to see if I could trust you, could know that you were as kind as the vibe you gave off. You gave me lots of space and time — and before long in the middle of one particularly long sermon, I leaned on your shoulder for a quick snooze while the folded-over lace nylon socks itched my ankle as they rested on my saddle shoes. It was then I knew you were my friend. I’d hold your hand in church for the next number of Sundays and missed you when you didn’t make it.
Later that year, on my birthday, you showcased your dot matrix printing skills with a 10 foot long banner wishing me well on my big day. It took the help of a few adults to unroll it which caused half the church to find out it was my birthday and begin singing in my honor. I think I realized that it was not you but I who needed a friend. You made me feel known and celebrated, Gordon.
You’ve been coming into my mind more than I expected you too. About a year ago was the first time I noticed the memory when someone asked me, “Who loved you for you and not what you could bring to the table?” I’ve got lots of people that category is true for – my mom, my husband, my friend Mary and loads more… but you popped into my head and all of a sudden I was 8 years old holding a birthday banner. Your big dark brown eyes that looked like pools of pudding were a safe place to set my gaze in a time when I felt unsure and awkward.
As a little girl I could do nothing for you. I could offer you no medical help, no deep conversation, no financial advice, no car rides- yet you loved me for me, not what I could give you. In the sweetest of tangible ways you showed me the heart of God in the way you loved me. I miss you and although I’m certain you are present with the Lord now, I wish had gotten to say goodbye. I can’t wait for the day when Jesus gives us our new bodies and you’ll be able to walk tall and unhindered and I’ll rest against your shoulder. I’ll try to remember my fancy lace nylon socks for that joyous occasion.
Hi I’m Jamie Afshari! My Husband Jahan and I live in Tower Grove Park and love city living. I was fortunate to get my Master of Divinity From Covenant Seminary and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of plumbing the depths of God’s love.
Things I love: The Chicago Bears, olives of all varieties, any book by Annie Dillard, the poetry of Hafiz, the music of Andrew Peterson, and of course my husband!
Things I long for: Being able to clap and sing at the same time, convincing my husband to get me a cat, a bigger kitchen, to be a better wife and friend, and to meet the four babies we never got the chance to- ultimately, for Jesus to come back.