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Spirit Story

A warm memory, a heart made lighter

By Kathryn Belicki

One early winter morning, I was sitting listlessly, the Bible open on my lap. I couldn’t bring myself to start reading. Through the window, grey sky met grey lake and reflected my leaden soul. 

I thought of my friend Marilyn Rose, buried a short time before — just as she began retirement and mere months after her husband had died. Of children assaulted in refugee camps instead of playing safely at home. Of another friend diagnosed with cancer. Of news and rumours of wars. Of my chosen sisters, who were once such loving friends but were now locked in bitter conflict.

“Where are you?” I asked aloud, hand absently touching the Bible.

Silence. This emptied me even more than the tragedies. I craved a whisper, a barely felt touch, anything to reassure me that I was not alone. “Wait for the Lord,” Psalm 27 exhorts. But that morning, it felt like only a random universe awaited.

“I don’t know how to pray anymore,” I said. It was more a plea than a statement, and it was the only prayer I could muster.

But then, a gentle memory drifted into my mind, one of those grace-filled moments that so often come in little experiences. The occasion was a half-hour visit a few months earlier with a new friend. I had dropped by her home to deliver a promised book, and we sat in her backyard chatting easily. It was a perfect day: blue sky and sparkling afternoon sun.

My friend runs a small daycare, and her five charges, all two to three years old, tumbled around, glancing shyly from time to time at the stranger who had come to visit. After a few minutes, one of the bolder children marched up and stood in front of me, huge impish eyes framed by tousled curls. She reached her arms up and said, “Hug!”

I felt pleased, as if I had done something to deserve this. I bent over and hugged her, but straightening up saw that I had somehow missed the mark. Her smile erased, she planted her fists on her hips and stared at me. She punched her arms into the air and, with eyes of steel, demanded, “Hug!”

I was confused and more than a smidge daunted by such fierceness wrapped in a tiny frame. Then light dawned. I lifted her up onto my lap, and she immediately wrapped her little arms and legs around me, soft curls snuggled under my chin. Leaning back, she played happily with the cross around my neck for a few minutes before sliding off and running to her toys.

In the warmth of the memory, my heart felt a bit lighter. The lake and sky outside the window now seemed a touch more silvery than grey. I felt there was more than just comfort in this recollection; there was something I was missing. Why this memory, of all the lovely moments I could have recalled? As I pondered, I saw again the insistent small face, bright eyes and flouncy curls.

Of course. Now I knew how to pray.

I flung my arms into the air. “Hug!”

Kathryn Belicki is a professor of psychology at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. She attends Crawford United.

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