Thursday, 3 October 2013

Chance meeting in a house of God

On a stormy, rainy day as the end comes, a drive to an old spiritual haunt nestled at the top of a hill where a church and monastery remain. The morning had been slow, the heat and birdsong were forcing me away from contemplation, making me irritable, snappy. I wanted desperately to find a calm, silent place and most of all, to feel the ache in my soul disappear.

We drove there at our leisure. The morning had been slow. Each time we decided to set off, the 'phone rang or another call needed to be made to sort out the chaos surrounding the dying matriarch.

Almost two hours behind schedule, we finally set off. The rains had dissipated temporarily but the sky was darkening again.

The road was steep, winding and barely wide enough for two Trabant-sized cars. We were directionless, the road signs being non existent. A type of second voice began to whisper, "slow down, turn right not left, careful, a car is coming down the hill towards you."

We parked. A Rastafarian was busy mixing concrete by hand on the side of the road. We approached and asked directions to the shop. "Go up and turn right. You can park there." We retreated our steps back to the car and turned around. Up along the sharp bend and suddenly into the courtyard, the rococo church bearing down on us.

My heart leaped straight into my mouth. I couldn't believe my eyes. I recognised  that same gait, the quick, purposeful strides, the same petiteness. I jumped out of the car, the engine still running. "Sister Monique, Sister Monique! Remember me?"

She didn't wait to reply but hugged me, that type of hug where the arms go tightly around the waist.

"I'm trying to remember. Tell me, help me out....I know your face but...."

"We were neighbours. I grew up..".

"Oh yes! Samantha!"

We clutched on to each other, embracing again. Stunned at the zillion-to-one chance that we would meet here and so far away from our respective homes. Her, some thirty miles and at a place where she had no reason to be other than a last minute change from her usual daily routine. Me, some 12000 miles away from my home and the last time I had been even near that church was 1987. The chance of that happening?

The sky quickly unleashed its cargo and  the black clouds, by now stationed firmly above us, burst loudly, scattering ripe, plump drops of warm rain.

"Quick! Run!" Into the church.

The years dissolved into the present moment after we had revisited the past. I asked her about the signing of the will. Her memory ached as she revived those forgotten thoughts. She had been the second witness. She could answer the question: Was he forced to sign? Were you there when he did?

"Come," I say, guiding her gently by the arm, "please pray for my father."

We walk towards the front pew, the entire church empty, silent and waiting for us. We kneel. I weep as she prays. "Father," she whispers, "please protect Arnold, Susie and Samantha. We thank you for guiding us here..."

Our unplanned meeting after so many years, we couldn't attribute it to anything but...

I knew then that I had to go on.

Copyright Samantha van Dalen, 2013. From my soon to be released book, Memories.

 Photo copyright S. van Dalen

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