My friend Rhea had a birthday about a month ago. It seemed like everyone and their brother showed up for the party, including a Portland news station who ended up writing a story about her. Yeah, she was a big deal that day. She is a big deal, especially to me. She is my oldest friend and a humble one at that. She was the only one at the party that didn’t really see the big deal about turning 100 years old. Rhea is my first, and only, 100 year old friend.
I met Rhea when I started working part time at Courtyard which is an assisted living home just down the road from Franklin High School where my church meets every Sunday. It’s a beautiful facility and very inviting. Rhea was one out of about 300 residents that I met but is the only one (other than Dorothy) that I still try to visit once a week. The first thing out of her mouth when I walk into her room is “want to play cards?” It’s her way of saying “I’m so glad to see you!” Rhea is hard of hearing but probably one of the healthiest residents at Courtyard. She wears dentures and sometimes forgets to put the denture glue on in the morning which can make it hard to understand her and only leads to conversations that sound like this:
“RHEA! YOU FORGOT YOUR GLUE.”
“What did you say hunny?”
“YOUR GLUE…DENTURE GLUE.”
“What do I want to do?…..I want to play cards! Want to play hunny?”
Rhea introduced me to a card game which I’m 100% positive she made up herself and makes up as she goes. Being the oldest child in my family (and a good one at that), I can smell a first born miles away….Rhea was definitely the oldest! She would count her score at the end of the game then count mine. Even if my cards were exactly the same as hers, I would somehow end up -7 in the hole. It’s amazing what senior citizens can get away with these days. : )
During one of my visits I was looking through her books on the shelf and saw that she had The Book of Mormon. I took it down and used it as a communication tool so as to not make people walking in the hallway curious as to why I was shouting “Jesus” or “hell” in Rhea’s room. I pointed to the book and asked her why she chose Mormonism. She shrugged and gave a non-interested expression. “I was in my early 20’s and wanted to give God a try. There were no other churches in the area so the Mormon church was my only option.” My heart sank as I pictured sweet Rhea looking for God but instead finding lies. I probed a little and found out that she did know about Jesus and that He died for our sins. We talked until I felt confident that she knew the Lord. She confessed that she never joined the Mormon church because something didn’t settle right with her.
Once I got back to my car that night, I sobbed with thankfulness that my dear friend did know Jesus. I also sobbed for the reality that there are so many people out there that do not know Jesus but think they do. I thanked God for Salt Lake City even if that meant me leaving the comfort of a city that I have grown to love. Suddenly, the move to Salt Lake didn’t seem such a big deal. I wanted to give other people like Rhea options. I wanted others to find truth. I’m so glad that Rhea knows the truth.
Oh yeah, Rhea’s son asked Courtyard to find out what his mother wanted for her 100th birthday. Do you know what she wanted more than anything?
A blue watch. Blue is her favorite color.