Yesterday I went to see Elsie (not her real name) in hospital where she had been an emergency admission the day before. Elsie is 96, registered blind, can walk only very short distances with a zimmer but lives a fulfilled independent life in one of the sheltered complexes of Dibley. Yesterday she was frightened and upset - but still delighted to be visited 'I hoped you'd come' she said as I greeted her.
Elsie is good fun, she calls a spade a spade and delights in the status that being the oldest Church Member at Dibley BC gives her (our oldest attender is actually a year older). I always enjoy time spent with her.
Yesterday she was keen to ensure that I had not forgotten her instructions for her funeral - which church we are to borrow and the route that the courtege must take to her final resting place in Dibley cemetry. Elsie loves a 'ride round' and is determined to have one last ride round before she is laid to rest. Good on her!
The conversation continued. I'm not intending to go just yet, she said (she has plans to 'see' the 2012 olympics) but 'I'm ready either way.' What a fantastic state of mind - to have a reason to live and a confidence to die. Elsie is not an educated woman and few would see her as especially spiritual - local superstitions blend strongly with her Christian faith and I doubt she's ever had a 'quiet time' in her life. Yet in an intuitive way she 'gets it' and she has a kind of phronesis (practical wisdom) that once gained old women either respect or fear.
I really hope Elsie does get to 2012 - she will turn 100 the day after I turn 50 as she regularly reminds me (when I came to preach with view, Elsie's two questions were 'how old are you' and 'when's your birthday'!).
God bless you Elsie, and may we all attain the confidence you have of being 'ready either way.'