I am not Jesus. I cannot perform miracles. But a resurrection took place in my home that has reignited my days.
It began in the unfinished room in my basement as I stumbled upon my dear Betty’s kitchen table and chairs that were neatly piled in the corner collecting cobwebs. They had been there in clear sight for more than four years but somehow had remained unnoticed until that moment. Then it hit me. What is Betty doing in the basement? How could I leave her down here for so long?
You see, Betty was one of those extraordinary people in my life – my godly counsel, treasured friend, and the most peaceful person I have ever known. She had a wisdom beyond this world and an overwhelming joy that didn’t make sense through twenty-plus years of chronic pain, blindness, and physical deterioration. No bitterness nor complaining, just boundless gratitude with a beaming smile. Betty did not light up a room, she commanded it. When she arrived, everyone took notice. There was just something about Betty.
I will never forget our first face-to-face encounter at church – I was 35 and she was 89. After a brief introduction, she said with assurance, “Come to my home for lunch tomorrow.” It didn’t seem like a question. Did I even have a choice? Betty was convincing without even trying.
So it began the next day, an unlikely friendship that would last nine years. A dry as a bone pork chop and pile of Brussels sprouts would be the first of many meals at Betty’s kitchen table, a place that became a sanctuary for me as I poured out my life over endless cups of coffee. When I sank into the tattered black lacquered chairs, I was home. Holy ground became tangible to me in those moments. We would linger for hours, and I soon learned that I was not the only occupant at this sacred table. Many came before me sharing fellowship, tears, and prayers. Our senior pastor sent Betty new pastors in training for counsel, and it was there that her “kitchen table ministry” was born.
So you can imagine that Road to Damascus moment in the basement when the scales fell from my eyes. I had an immediate sense of urgency as I ran my hand across the dusty tabletop – I must get Betty out of the basement! With the help of my friend Carrie, we cleaned her, brought her up, and carefully placed her in the loft adjacent to my office.
Now each day this symbol of strength, wisdom, and faith urges me on as I settle into the well-worn chairs with my coffee – not black as Betty would drink it. I remember Betty’s kitchen table ministry, and I wonder what my ministry will be. What would Betty say? How would she counsel me now? The answers are not yet clear, but as I abide each morning with prayers and my pen, a certainty builds that I must seek to carry on Betty’s legacy – one abounding in joy, unabashedly bold, anchored in Christ, and welcoming to all.
Betty died in my arms at the age of 98. Today, her treasured table and chairs are in clear view as I write, reminding me that God brings people into our lives for a reason but also just for a season. Betty has been resurrected and will live on forever in my heart.
Today, on what would have been Betty’s 104th birthday, I share (with permission) a Prayer of Gratitude written and delivered by Dr. William Enright on Betty’s 90th birthday.
Dear Lord, from time to time you drop and we call them saints. On this birthday celebration we pause to give you thanks for one of those saints you have let fall into each of our lives: Betty Edwards.
Through your child Betty we have experienced your goodness and grace as love and joy have once again become incarnate and luminous in a human presence.
Through Betty’s open arms we have come to know your hospitality in this family of faith called Second Presbyterian Church. Because Betty knows no stranger, we who once were strangers, have been welcomed and blessed.
Through Betty’s open heart we have discovered your care and compassion as her kitchen and dining table have become for many a sacred altar where sins are confessed, anxieties laid to rest and hope reborn.
Through Betty’s musical hands we have dared to sing praises to you, sometimes amidst sadness, as we have found glory concertizing around her piano in the late night hours.
Through Betty’s dancing feet and love for parties and travels we have learned that you are a God with a zest for life and an indomitable spirit of joy who wants nothing less for your children but that they too live life in all its abundance.
Great God of life and grace, we lift a toast of gratitude to you for our friend Betty on this her 90th birthday.
Dr. William G. Enright Senior Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church Indianapolis, Indiana 12/29/01