An Old Friend


This is a guest post from a good friend from the U.K., Mike Sherwood. Be encouraged! 
“I have in the garden an old wooden bench, it was there when we moved in 9 months ago. My granddaughter decided to paint it blue, to bring color to a very sad looking seat. I decided to restore it this week, replacing some of the wood and reinforcing with metal supports, then a fresh coat of the blue paint.
When finished and dry I sat on it, with a coffee, reading. It was at this time I remembered the significance of having a garden bench.
Some 13-14 years ago I was diagnosed with appendicitis and taken into hospital. When the surgeon tried to find my appendix all he could see was scar tissue and adhesions. It turned out my appendix had burst some 4 years previously and I had suffered no effects at all. ( there is a story to this, but perhaps another day.)
I woke up feeling very ill and a much larger wound than I had expected. During the next week, the wound became infected and I became very ill. I was hurried into A and E and a doctor told me I had septicemia and would be taken to a ward.
On the next night, I drifted into unconsciousness. I had what seemed like a waking dream. I remember wanting to lie down on a grassy field, smell the fresh grass, feel a light breeze and have gentle rainfall on me. Then I found myself in that place, it was just wonderful.
As I lay there I realized my strength was draining away and I thought, ” I am dying”. I would never see Elisabeth or my children again, yet as sad as I felt, I knew it was all ok, all would be well for them.
As I lay there an old Simon and Garfunkel song came into my mind, it is called “Bookends.” It tells the story of two old friends who meet and sit on a park bench. They don’t need to speak much, they are old friends, at ease in each other’s company.
Suddenly the scene changed and I found myself sitting on a park bench in what looked like a London square. It was windy, a slight rain carried in the air, people hurried by pulling coats around themselves rushing to wherever they were going. It was so vivid I can see it now.
At this point, I realized I was not alone. Another man sat with me, It was amusing, we both wore Long Tweed overcoats, Tweed caps, and scarves. I don’t do tweed. As it sat I realized I was with an “old friend”, we were at ease and familiar company. I wondered what to say, and half turning I realized, this person was God.
I felt a rising sense of panic, “I should say something, but what”. All those things I had thought I would ask God if I saw him and I couldn’t think of one. I blurted out, “It’s a long time since we did this.” Then thought, ” What a dumb thing to say.”
We sat very much at ease together, then after what seemed a few minutes, my friend half turned to me and said, “Yes.” We sat a little while longer and then I found myself back, lying on the grass, enjoying the cool breeze and light rain. After what seemed a few more moments I felt strength returning to me and I knew I was going to live.
Since that time I find myself looking for two-seater park benches, two-seater sofa’s, two-seater garden benches. I sit and look to the side of me and I know I am not alone, I have an old friend. There we sit quietly, we have watched life and the world go by, worked together, laughed and cried together.
I say to my friend, “What do you think of this or that,” I tell him, “Well, Lord, if you want my opinion, it looks like this.” I talk a lot, he is the quiet one, but he doesn’t miss a thing.
And now, I have my own, very blue, two-seater wooden bench in my own garden, and each day, especially as we battle with the coronavirus, I sit there, with an old friend. Every day I will tell him my opinions and He will listen.
I am like a child who hasn’t learned to speak yet and when my Dad comes in from work, I run and sit with him telling him all about my day, what I’ve seen and what I think in my non-language. He, who knows me, understands all my words and talks back to me all about my day with complete understanding.
To me, this is amazing, what a gift. What an old friend.
-Mike Sherwood

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