Monday, June 19, 2006

Aurelia's house

A co-worker’s husband died of cancer yesterday. Their son is military, served in Iraq. Happy Father’s Day. It was a long, painful struggle. She’s such a strong, gritty woman of deep faith. I knew they had one of those deep, loving relationships.

His death made me spiral into a “what’s the purpose in life” mood. Too many I know have wasted away from cancer… and now of course Tia, my dog. She’s on week 11. The vet gave her 12 weeks. I told a friend this weekend it’s like watching someone on Death Row. She’s still doing well, but animals can take a sharp turn down in one day.

And then I got an email from another co-worker. She told me Aurelia’s house is finished.

That one sentence hoisted my spirits.

Aurelia’s house has been a personal quest since October, when Hurricane Wilma walloped my house. Wallowing in self-pity about the crushed Florida room, the two-foot hole in the roof, all the damage, I sought to dig myself out. I sought inspiration in the poor. I dug through notebooks, interviews of the people I’ve met.

I searched for a purpose.

And then I found Aurelia’s picture. Aurelia is very poor, elderly, living alone in a house where the roof partially collapsed. During a torrential downpour, the house was surrounded by floodwaters. She got trapped in her own home. Night terrified her. Aurelia feared the entire roof would collapse on her as she slept. Yet she had a deep faith that God would come to her aid. When I met her, she started weeping in relief that someone finally arrived to help.

“You could have passed. But something of God touched your heart so you are able to hear and see my cries, how I am living,” she told me.

She deeply touched me with her heartfelt trust in God. After our visit, she went on a waiting list of thousands of poor people needing homes.

This past October, she became my personal mentor. Funny, huh? How an elderly, poor woman living in a tumbledown shack can become a mentor. On my computer, I stuck the photo of Aurelia standing before her wrecked house. And every time I felt sorry for myself while trying to hire a roofer, deal with the insurance company, struggle with all the damage, I’d look at her photo. I’d remind myself how fortunate I was. I had insurance. I had resources. I wasn’t frail, elderly and alone. I had Dh to patch the leaky roof, fix the broken water main, and I could help him cut up the downed trees and haul pieces to the curb.

Aurelia trusted God. She had faith everything would work out okay. Aurelia was a gentle nudge to remind me to have a little faith as well.

I became determined that she’d get a new house. I contacted someone who hustled, promised. Then I let go and let God.

Today, I got the news that Aurelia’s house is finished.

I wonder if her house got completed when we finally got the finishing touches on our new Florida room. Parallel kismet, you might say. It doesn’t matter. Her house is done. And now she can sleep in peace, just like me. Aurelia without fear of the roof collapsing on her. Me without fear of the rain pouring inside my home.

I needed to hear this news today. I needed assurance that when life seems stuffed with pain, suffering and death, there’s good amid the bad. One elderly woman, one new house, one shining beacon of hope. There is purpose to life. Sometimes you just have to dig a little hard to find it.

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