When Matisha moved into the retirement apartment next to my Mum last year, things got ugly.
Very ugly. Very quickly.
Matisha took an instant dislike to Mum. Only my Mum. All the other residents she was fine with. Chatted with them. Spent time with them But there was something about Mum that she took an instant dislike to. From day one. No matter what Mum tried to do for her. And boy, did Mum try.
Mum cooks and cleans for several of her neighbours who are beyond the ability to do so for themselves. One of them, Simon, who wears an eyepatch, and keeps the pirate theme going, by befriending a small wren that sits on his arm, calls Mum, Mother Theresa.
But that’s now how Matisha saw Mum. There were probably a few other mother words she’d reserved for Mum.
You see it wasn’t just that Matisha was ignoring her. That would be one thing. It was swearing and cursing her out. And not just nice little words starting with the letter “D”, but huge, big awful words whose beginnings marched their way through the alphabet.
It got to be that Mum could not walk past Matisha’s apartment without a series of expletives being thrown through the door – foul mouthed and intending to hurt. Mum started to take the long way around to get to places, just to avoid Matisha’s door.
One time Matisha forgot to bring her washing in from the communal washing lines. For days. Old people can do that sort of thing. Mum went to her door to see if she needed help. The shouted response was as dirty as the washing was clean.
Whenever we’d visit I’d almost have to be held back from going over there and giving Matisha a piece of my mind. All in the nicest possible way, you understand. I was going to mete out some justice and ensure my 74 year old mother could spend her days in peace. Mum always dissuaded me somehow.
Matisha’s scheme worked. Mum was hurt. She prayed about it. She tried to reconcile with Matisha, though she wasn’t sure what she’d even done to her in the first place.
The low point was when Matisha wrote to the aged care facility management and declared that she was fine with everyone and everything, except Pauline, and indicated that perhaps Mum would have to leave.
One day Mum, who, having grown up in fairly straitened circumstances and has the bargain-hunting magpie eye as a result, spied a lovely recliner chair on the street verge, thrown out by someone in the apartments.
There it was, sitting there, looking new, comfortable, well made in leather, but, alas, as Mum discovered upon inspection, broken. Part of the weight bearing metal structure had snapped off, and was sitting by the side of the chair. A new piece of furniture rendered useless by a bad weld.
Useless to all but the winner of “Second-hand Bargain Queen 1984-2018”.
Mum knew that my brother, as good at welding as I am useless, could fix that chair. It would be a great addition to her home, especially in light of the fact she was getting a knee replacement soon, and it was the perfect height and fit for her to get in and out of easily while recovering.
But then Mum recognised where she had seen it. Matisha’s place. She’d seen it on her balcony. Now it was on the verge, awaiting whoever was going to drive by down the street and take it.
Or whoever was going to walk out of their retirement village apartment with their friend Thea, lift it up, wrangle it back past the apartments (avoiding Matisha’s house), and get it fixed in order to use it.
Which is exactly what Mum did. Not long before her knee replacement, my brother took the chair, welded it and brought it back good as new. And for a month or so, after an operation that had more complications than she expected, Mum was able to use her chair.
Or Matisha’s chair at least. Mum couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t her chair, that the only reason that Matisha had gotten rid of it was because it was broken, and now that it wasn’t broken, well maybe Matisha might like it back. Mum felt uncomfortable keeping it, even though she knew she was within her rights.
So Mum did what you do when someone who hates you for no reason, who breaks then discards something of value, which you’ve then repaired and enjoyed, does. She put her rights aside, and went for the grace option.
Mum drew a deep breath, hobbled her way on her recovering knee, back up to her tormentor’s door, and knocked.
Matisha was not pleased to see her.
“Yes?” she snapped.
“Matisha, I was wondering if you wanted your chair back. I know it was broken and on the verge, but my son welded the broken part and it works perfectly. Would you like it?”
Then, “Really? I wanted my son to weld it but he didn’t have the right tools, so we just threw it out.”
And with that, Matisha had her chair back. And, for some reason, soon after, the swearing stopped, and the odd cursory – curseless – nod was given in Mum’s direction whenever she walked past. They were never going to be long term friends or anything, but it was a start.
And then Matisha wasn’t around any longer. No, no, she didn’t die, so put your tissues away.
Somehow she did a quiet and extremely quick pack-up-and-move a few weeks back. Said nothing at all to anybody in the apartments. Upped and moved to a place several suburbs over and that was it. No one has seen her or heard from her since.
Until today. Until the retirement village administration brought an envelope down to Mum’s apartment, with the name “Pauline” scrawled on the front. Inside was a Thank You card with flowers on the front.
Mum opened it cautiously. This is what she read:
I just want to thank you and your son for fixing my lovely chair for me. I love sitting in it on the balcony of my new place and looking into my private courtyard.
Thank you again,
I’ve written before about my Mum’s spectacular expression of grace towards my Dad, after the way things went in their lives. But there’s something about the way the grace of the Lord Jesus gets into the nooks and crannies of our lives that makes a difference in myriad small ways too. Myriad small ways that all add up, and can lead people to asking why we’re different to other people when we don’t need to be.
It’s all well and good celebrating the big rocks of grace that go into the jar, but once they are in there, it’s the fine trickling sand of grace that filters down into so many aspects of life, and just makes it good. Good for you and good for others.
And good for a graceless woman such as Matisha, whose hurts and shattered dreams we will never perhaps know, – and who could have any number of excuses for the way in which she treated Mum -, experienced the trickle down effect of the grace of the Lord, from a willing servant, .
And perhaps as Matisha sits resting in her chair in her new suburb, reflecting and relaxed overlooking her lovely courtyard, she will ask why.
And perhaps she will cast her mind towards the One who Himself rescues broken people such as us from the verge, refitting us with the meaning and purpose we were designed for in the first place, and making us a trophy of his grace.
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