A simple picture, in a simple frame, sat in a place of honour. I noticed it as soon as I entered the room, a small chapel, set up for that day's training. They use an altar that's about has high as a coffee table, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. The picture was of a woman with a disability. She smiled out from the frame, looking over the room. I paused when rolling by to look closely at her. There was happiness in her eyes and joy in her smile. This was a woman who knew love. I could see that in her very bearing.
Then, I became distracted with getting ready, setting my mind for the task at hand. The lecture I was to give is an emotional one for me and I need to feel grounded, and strong, and present. I have a mantra, a private thought, a tiny prayer, that I say before I begin each lecture and, I followed my tradition. The small crowd gathered, seated comfortably around me in a beautiful room.
My chair was placed so that I looked out the window, I could see a pond frozen solid, I could see evidence of where people had been skating. As I talked, when I needed mental space, even in midst of a story, I looked out that window. And occasionally, I looked back over at the picture. In the frame. Sitting on the altar.
At break I met with someone who'd I'd been playing phone tag with, spoke to one or two of those attending, and readied myself to begin again. I've done a lot of training in this room. I've attended chapel services there many times. I'd sat beside others with disabilities and felt the sense of community that comes when people spend quiet and intentional moments together. The room that filled with the sound of my voice, was a room that held so many special meanings for me.
On the back wall there is a painting of vibrant colours. Depicting, amongst other things, an angel hovering in a dark night sky. I've always been drawn to the images there. I like the colour. I like the immediacy and the honesty of the people portrayed. I wanted my words to be the same, mean the same to those attending. I wanted them to feel, deeply, about what I was saying. I wanted the words, like the picture, to have images that would stay with them. Remind them at various times to respond well, with laughter, with patience, with careful thought, with whatever it took.
And over all this, she, the woman in the picture watched. Smiling. Approving all the while.
When it was over I was packing up and, without me asking, one of those attending told me that the woman in the picture had died, a few years ago on this date. The picture was brought out as a remembrance of the life she had shared with them. Of the joy she had brought all. She was not forgotten. Those who were loved never are.
I had not known.
Today, I gave a presentation in a chapel. Yet, oddly, it was me who was ministered to.