Editor’s note: Lizzie Apple is a rising junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School and a member of Idlewild Presbtyerian Church. She writes about a friendship made through the church’s More Than A Meal ministry.
She watches me enter the room and smiles to herself as if there is some small and amusing secret bouncing through her head. Standing, she says, “Well, come on then. Let’s do it.” She swiftly leads me to a table in the church, climbing the stairs and turning down the hallways easily, dreamily. Before we are in our chairs, she starts.
Now, perching upon her chair, she tells me about her childhood. Sheena Matthews says she navigated those years hesitantly, keeping to herself and not bothering anyone. Staying out of trouble. That was what she always knew to do. So she drew everything in.
She pauses. And then, in defiance of her childhood customs, she easily tells me that her mother is sick. Closing her eyes as though the heavy lids could keep a frightening world at bay, she begins to recount the past few days.
A recurring tumor and tests and doctors and hospitals blur into a tangle of memories and fear. She opens her soft and strong brown eyes and watches me listen. After a moment of quiet, she says, “I am very much worried.”
Then she turns her face away and divulges that there are nights without sleep. Nights that pool together into an eternal maze of time spent in anxiety. She says that it just doesn’t work out alone.
She talks with slow strength, drawing out each syllable and each word until I feel it reaching me and reverberating through the room. Then, in an astounding reversal of emotion, she dives into the joy of what Idlewild Presbyterian Church brings to fight the otherwise interminable nights. Each moment she spends here is carefully stored in her heart. Each person is dear.
The church is a force field to her, separate from other times and present times. She says this place constantly whispers in her ear, “How can you ask for anything more?” Then she throws her head back and laughs at her fortune.
Repeating her idea, she calls the people from the church sisters and brothers. She says she keeps company with angels at Idlewild.
A place that becomes a solace and a home provides for her a welcome responsibility. She says to me, “I take this very close to my heart. And now I try to help every person I can.”
She takes it upon herself to emulate the faces that buoy her up so gently and unfailingly. But she describes the feeling of wanting to help as overwhelming at times. To her, it is a windmill of people who need things. How can you help them all?
She found her haven four years ago because of a friend who “dragged” her to a service one Sunday. She remembers being afraid that she wouldn’t be accepted. But instead, “Open arms were there.” That day, as she listened to singing and sermons, she decided that Idlewild had the most beautiful choir in the world. She decided that she would become a part of it. Because of this, she says that she has “something to live for, something that is happy.”
The friend died recently, and “a part of (her) went with him.” But in spite of the loss, she states that he wants for her to keep going. To keep trying. To finish what he started at Idlewild. With pride, she says, “I haven’t gave up yet. I’m still here. Still here.”