Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miss. Della Anderson

Growing up, there was a certain monotony in the weekly services at our quiet little Presbyterian church.  We Presbyterians were led to to mistrust beautiful ornamentation and religious symbols, any more than a touch of colour, and mysterious language.  But being children, we longed for drama  to help us understand the one story about a king who came to earth long ago and who we still worship today… an epic story; the story that brought us together every week; a nonending story. Again as children, it would have been exciting to find some of that drama in mysterious prayer beads, rising whispers of incense, protecting holy water, touches of precious stones but instead we found the richness and drama in the plain but solid oak cross hung in the chancel, the impressive oak beams which framed  the vestibule, the mysterious symbols carved into the oak lectern and communion table.  Our services were orderly and quiet but thought to be pure. Beauty came in the repetitive hymns sung over the years.  It also came in the pious and faithful souls that sat in the pews faithfully throughout those years.

We all knew which pews we sat in each week.  In the  pew ahead of us and to the right sat two unmarried women: Miss. Rachel Jarvis and Miss. Della Anderson who lived together.  While Miss. Jarvis was tall and slender; perfectly dressed with  short neat curly hair- Miss. Anderson was short; heavy with stooped shoulders which caused her dresses to sag; and her silky grey hair often slipped out of her bun. She had some facial hair and rarely looked at you directly. Miss. Jarvis was the town’s librarian, articulate and efficient.  Miss Della Anderson was quiet and assisted Miss. Jarvis at the library.  Miss Anderson seldom spoke to us children but Miss Jarvis was often asking us questions as she helped us choose our books in the library.  Like our plain Calvinistic church… so  Miss Della Anderson was plain.

Years later, Miss Della Anderson spent her last days in hospital.  Often Rev. Cruikshank would visit her in hospital and during each visit, Miss. Anderson would recite the “Lord’s Prayer.”  Slowly over time, the prayer began to slip from her memory except for the first sentence “Our Father, who art in heaven;” until the day came when she could only say, “Our Father.”

Today, I took my grand daughter to the park and as she was swinging, I began to teach her to pray the “Lord’s Prayer.”  The entire prayer and even the first sentence was of course  too much for her. But she knew to fold her hands and with a sense of excitement and respect said, “Our Father”.  It will take many years for her to understand the depth of the disciple's prayer. She will learn that no matter where she might  search for love in life, above all else, the Father, is waiting to love her , He will impart His richness, love, beauty inside her and over time she will grow more beautiful to Him. In Hebrew, a name represented everything about that person…his character and his heart. “Della” means noble.


“To him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.  What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him?  And what shall we take this secrecy to mean?  Surely that each of the redeemed shall know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can.  Why else were individuals created but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently.     C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain