Tea and sympathy

Tonight we prayed the Stations of the Cross. There were only three of us, so there were no robes or processional cross; but we sang the Stabat Mater in the plainest of plainsong made beautiful by the gift of prayer; and I lit a candle from the tapers at the altar to illuminate each station. After a while, it became quite heavy, and then – the strangest thing – when all was said and done and the others were gone, it was the hardest thing to bear to snuff it out.


The sixth station – that extra-biblical scene in which a woman, traditionally named Veronica, wipes the face of Jesus – was near our intecessory lights, so we lit candles for those who have no one to care for them, or to wipe their brow.

On the way home, I was accosted by a memory from my first term away at college. I had been laid low by the flu, and kept to my bed well into the afternoon. I was startled awake by a knock at the door. Someone wanted to know if she could make me a cup of tea.

I think that I said, “No, thank you,” not because I didn’t want the tea, but because she took me by surprise. It had not occurred to me until that very moment that I did not have to muddle through, manage, cope, suffer – be – alone.

I don’t suppose she remembers. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to her to offer a virally distressed classmate a little tea and sympathy. But I have never forgotten her kindness, or the healing she offered in her outstretched hand.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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