A Precious 91 Year old Lady
Let’s go to Saturday and my visit with a precious 91 year old lady. (I told you about my home routine last week and nothing has changed there, except that I had such a good time on Saturday I didn’t get home to do my housework. :))
My originating family never put up much of a fuss to celebrate Remembrance day on November 11th. Partly, I guess, because we were Mennonite in denominational faith, and Mennonites are pacifists. That means it is a tenant of our faith not to go to war at all. However, my parents were in survival mode most of my growing up years, and so we never had any specific teaching on the subject. I have developed my own beliefs as I’ve grown older.
However, the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS) always organizes an event for that time of year to review the pacifist stance, and tell stories of those who refused to go to war, and sometimes at considerable personal cost. Since I do their website work, and am editor of their publication, “The Historian,” it is considered good of me to be present at these events and to take notes and photos for a report to go on the website and sometimes into the Historian too. I was agreeable to that.
But weeks earlier I’d met Helen Peters on the phone, who lives at Bethany Manor, the retirement community where the MHSS meetings are held, and I was fascinated by her. She thought that she had helped to deliver me when I was born – which was before she want to Zambia as a missionary for 36 years. We hit it off so well that I really wanted to meet Helen. I called her on Saturday morning to explain that I would be in the Fellowship Hall at Bethany for the afternoon Peace Perspectives meeting, and I’d like to have a chance to visit with her too. She was happy to agree. She would even attend the meeting too, though she was busy that morning baking peppernuts.
When I got there I was standing near the door through which the residents would come in, and asking Erna, another lady I knew well, if she knew of a Helen Peters, who was 91 and had been a missionary in Africa. (There are 100s of residents in this Bethany complex). Erna shook her head. Helen Peters is a common Mennonite name, and there could be 2 or 3 of them in Bethany.
Just then 2 women came up to the door behind me. I turned around and asked them if either of them were Helen Peters. The one said, no, right away. The other one asked my name. Then she wanted to confirm my first name. When I repeated it was, Ruth, her face relaxed into a smile.
Quickly I said, with a teasing lilt, “You must be Helen Peters. The one I’m looking for!”
She was. We talked for a bit there, but others came up to talk with me, or remind me that someone else wanted to see me, so I moved off to do my business networking.
I usually sit near the front so I can take photos of the speakers and make good notes, so we didn’t get together again until after the meeting was over.
Basically, it had only two parts. Martin Klaassen, now also 91, who has been a professor in various universities around the world, and written a number of books, gave a short talk with 3 short stories of individuals in history who made serious sacrifices, even of their lives, for their belief that Jesus taught NOT to kill anyone for any reason.
After that we had a 44 minute video explaining the Conscientious Objector movement in the context of Canadian history. I found that interesting because my Uncle Johnny, (Dad’s brother) was a CO in the second World War, and though I found a curled up wad of photos among his possessions when I helped clean up his small apartment after he died, I really didn’t know a lot about that part of his life. The interviews with former COs and scenes from their work building the TransCanada highway through the mountains of BC, and other labour intensive jobs, some even working as orderlies in mental hospitals…. was all of interest to me.
Anyway, afterward Helen and I enjoyed some of the cookies served with coffee, tea, etc., and I got to meet Laura Wiebe, (whom I’ve known for a number of years), only to find out that she is Helen’s sister.
Well, we ended in Helen’s apartment on the third floor, and our visiting began in earnest. (Oops. I see I have spent too much space here describing the preamble period, so I’ll have to summarize this more quickly).
Helen and I hit it off tremendously. My respect for her grew as we talked of family, of her experiences in Africa, etc. She decided to make supper, just toast and eggs, but we hardly noticed as we kept talking and finding more and more things in common.
She gave me a zip lock bag with her spicy peppernuts, which are quite addictive. They are the size of mini-cookies, but have the tang of spices that makes you reach for another and another. They are crisp enough so many love them for dunking in their coffee. I don’t drink coffee, so I just pop them into my mouth like peanuts. (I often bake a batch or two myself, for Christmas gifts in jars).
Helen was baking for a fundraising sale to happen at Bethany soon, and showed me that she already had 4 pails full done!
For my part, I left a copy of my new history book of the mission for her to read. She didn’t have the money to pay for it, but I said that was okay. It would give me a reason to come again soon. 🙂
Sometimes we make a new friend and it is possible to identify with one another so well that we can share as if we’ve known each other for all our lives.
I told Helen of my dream to visit my pen pals in Africa some day, and how I’d like to take her along. She said she’d be glad to come! Of course, we don’t what our health conditions will be like when I can afford to do that… But we’ll see!
Oh what a precious 91 year old lady Helen is! I was totally taken with her!