Chapter 28. Uncle Max

The others looked up expectantly at Alison and Charlotte when they rejoined them in the living room.  

“That was Crystal,” Charlotte said.  “Max died.” 

“You mean, Max, her uncle?”  Jackie asked, giggling nervously.  

Denise raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

“The very one,” Charlotte answered.  “Yes, Max was a cat, but as you know, Crystal believes in reincarnation, and she was convinced that Max was her uncle, who was punished for his dissolute life by being reincarnated as a cat.  As a cat, Max was fairly well-behaved—but now she is distraught not knowing where he is or where he will be in his next life.  And that husband of hers—Dexter—left her a couple of weeks ago when Max got sick.  Her speaking to her ‘Uncle’ Max in the days before Max died was the last straw for him.  He didn’t cotton to her belief in reincarnation.” 

The group fell silent as they pulled out their projects from their bags and totes.

 Liz got settled at the end of one of the sofas near the fireplace, pulled out Sean’s hooped quilt from the large bag and picked up the threaded needle she had left secured in the quilt. After placing a thick leather thimble on the middle finger of her left hand, She put her left hand under the quilt and began hand quilting in the familiar rhythmic cadence that relaxed every bone in her body.  She glanced over to what the others were working on. 

 Charlotte was embroidering a Home Sweet Home sampler in a hoop on her lap.  

Jackie’s crochet specialties were baby blankets.  She was crocheting a baby blanket with a soft pink and yellow variegated yarn in a shell pattern, and had finished about 10 inches.   

Alison was hand appliqueing orange and yellow flowers and red hearts onto a Baltimore quilt square; Liz also noticed one of Alison’s partially finished crocheted rugs peeking from a large bag at her feet. Alison was a master needleworker and crafter.  She could make anything.  Last year she taught herself how to crochet cotton rag rugs like the ones her great-grandmother made. 

Caroline was drawing a floral design on graph paper that she would later translate into a needlepoint pillow; she also had a knitting project in her bag.  

Denise was crocheting cross bookmarks from white cotton string yarn to give to the Sunday School children for Easter.  

They all sided with Dexter on the question of Max the cat being Crystal’s uncle.  The idea of reincarnation was preposterous to them.  While Crystal was sincere, they felt that she was terribly misguided. She dropped out of the group a few years ago, and they missed her, despite her belief in reincarnation. She was lively and funny—and absolutely silly at times.  She was a genuine character and her idiosyncrasies endeared her to them. 

Denise finished the cross bookmark she was crocheting, fastened it off and cut the cotton crochet thread with the small colorful enamel scissors from her bag.  She looked up at the others who were intent on their work.  She was a medical doctor, who applied her love of science to her faith. 

 She believed that the existence of the omnipotent God of the Bible was solidly supported by proofs in the universe of intelligent design.  She also marveled at the incredible design of the human body, concluding that such a complex design as the human body implied a master designer–God.

She said thoughtfully, “But, it is concerning, isn’t it?  If you really care for someone, and they are following the wrong path, shouldn’t you say something?”

Liz, who was a lay Bible scholar, responded quickly. “I have talked to her about her faith, which I believe to be sincere.  I think it’s safe to say that she hasn’t found the peace she was looking for.  She is still seeking.  I take that as a good sign.” 

Glancing at Jackie, she added, “I don’t know what the Jewish beliefs are respecting a person coming to faith, but the Christian belief is based on what Jesus said, ‘Seek, and you shall find.’  We believe that the Holy Spirit inhabits our souls, and that if we answer God’s call to faith, he is there to help us along the way.”

Denise looked puzzled, and asked, “But that only applies to those who are going to church and actively looking for God, right?” 

“Yes and no,’ replied Liz.  “Yes, because Jesus made it clear that anyone seeking him will find him.  No, because Jesus didn’t stipulate that a person has to seek him in a church or other place of worship.  It isn’t impossible to come to faith without attending services, but,” she added, “belonging to a body of believers who love and support you in your faith journey is not only helpful, but is an essential part of growing in your faith. Fellow believers teach, inspire, and help you move closer to God.” 

“What about Jesus saying that he is the truth and the way and that no one comes to him but through him?  Doesn’t that mean that you have to belong to a Christian church to be saved?” asked Caroline.

Liz looked at Jackie apologetically—“Jackie, does this conversation offend you?”

Jackie chuckled. “Jews love debate and to listen to others’ ideas.  I’m secure in my own beliefs, but interested in yours.” 

She freed one hand from the blanket and with a smile and flourish of her hand, she said “Carry on, I’m interested.”  She added, laughing, “And if the Messiah comes during my lifetime, I’m going to ask him, ‘So, is this your first or your second visit?’“ 

The ladies laughed and continued working. 

Liz continued, “Well, Paul convinced the early church that the gospel is for everyone, not just Jews.  And Jesus said that anyone who seeks him will find him.  So, according to Jesus, anyone who truly seeks God will find God, and Jesus is a part of the triune God of Christianity.  When I connect to God, I am connecting to Jesus, because he is one of three parts of God.”

“So, there’s still hope for me?” Jackie inquired playfully. 

“Yes,” Liz laughed, “and for Crystal too.  She may still find her way to the God of the Bible.  I am praying for her.”

Putting her graph paper and pencil down on her lap, Caroline said, “Well, I think I can speak for all of us in saying that none of us is perfect.  We all lose our way, or ignore God from time to time.  We get distracted by a myriad of things.  I certainly was for much of my life.”  

She struggled a moment with the emotion that had overtaken her, then with some effort, continued in a strong voice.

“Honestly, I have to say that being in this group has helped me in my faith walk.  Even though we don’t talk much about our faith, I know you all to be strong women of faith.  You help shore me up, and for that I am grateful.  I am also grateful that I can turn to you, my sisters, when I am hurting and that you will pray for me.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.”  

Jackie stood up and held out her arms . . . aww that was beautiful Caroline. . . group hug, group hug.” 

They all accepted Jackie’s invitation, and spent a moment embracing each other.

As they settled back into their places, Liz said, “Have you heard that they’re having a contest to name the new shops/community center in the Old Carnegie library?”  

The others looked up from their work, shaking their heads. Alison said, “Honestly, I was hoping that they would abandon the project.  I want our old library back!”

“Here, here” said Jackie.

“Well,” Liz said, “they’re almost finished with the remodel, and from what I hear, they have kept most of the fine old artisan features of the library, but updated the electricity, plumbing, etc. and brought it up to current earthquake standards. It’s a fait accompli.

“I’m just glad that they didn’t tear it down. 

“I was thinking, this could be an opportunity to participate in the repurposing of the library. Why don’t we come up with a name and enter it as a group?  We could brainstorm tonight.  How about it?” 

She looked around the room.  Most of the ladies were nodding.  

“I’m game.” 

“Me too.”

“Me three  . . . “

“Let’s go for it.”

“Okay. It’s settled.”  She related the details from the Messenger article, explaining that the winning name would be chosen before the Grand Opening in May. 

“How about The Village” offered Charlotte. . .

“Or Ye Old Library,” suggested Denise.

They brainstormed names and discussed them, settling on their final choice after and hour. 

“So, everyone’s agreed on our proposed name, right?” asked Liz.  Everyone nodded their agreement. 

“Okay,” she said. “I will enter it into the contest tomorrow!”