This Game of Cards Taught Her a Divine Lesson

Playing with an elderly friend made her worry about aging and memory problems. Then she was reminded that angels are always watching.

Posted in , Oct 27, 2021

An illustration of an angel on a playing card; Illustration by Salini Perera

Vivian shuffled the playing cards and hesitated before she dealt. “We’re on sevens,” I said.

My friend and I had played Three Thirteen Rummy together for more than two decades, but lately Vivian needed reminding of what hand we were on. Or how many cards she’d dealt. Or whose turn it was. Not that any of it affected the outcome of the game—Vivian always won. She was still a whiz at this complicated card game, still able to live independently. At age 93, her memory problems weren’t surprising, but the idea had me worried for my future.

I was 20 years younger than Vivian, but I’d already noticed my recall starting to slip. Last week I’d misplaced my car keys. Yesterday I couldn’t remember if I’d paid the water bill. I couldn’t count all the time I’d spent searching for my phone. I imagined myself at Vivian’s age, alone in my house, nestled in the high desert of northwest Colorado. Would I be able to live independently like Vivian, or would I struggle, like some of my other friends, with full-blown dementia?

Vivian and I picked up our newly dealt hands. Lord, give me the courage to trust you, I asked. But would I forget him one day too? Losing awareness of my faith was what scared me most.

“My husband, Charlie, and I played cards every morning before we started work at the motel,” Vivian said, remembering way back. “Whoever won got to be boss that day.”

“How long did you two run that motel together?”

“Oh, for decades. We lived there too, to keep an eye on things.” She told a few stories about their colorful clients during the oil boom and the deer hunters in the fall—all while she beat me at the round.

“Whose turn is it to deal?” Vivian asked.

“It’s mine,” I said, gathering up the cards. We were on the last deal of our third game.

Vivian probably needed a rest, but she never turned down a game of cards. I shuffled the deck. Vivian didn’t know what she’d face in the future either, but she seemed to take every new day as it came, like she looked at a new hand of cards.

“You’re such an encouragement to me,” I said.

Vivian looked up, surprised. “I’m not sure how. I haven’t got much of a brain anymore.”

“You do just fine.”

Vivian thought about it. “Maybe you’re right,” she said. “I do just fine because the Lord is near. Sometimes he sends an angel to sprinkle my mind with memory dust.” She leaned in and grinned, as if sharing a happy secret. “It’s almost like watching an old movie, starring me! Growing up as a farm kid, falling in love with my sweetheart, us running that motel. You’ve heard enough of my stories today.” I imagined my angel one day sprinkling my memory dust of just this moment with Vivian.

I tallied up our scores. “You won again, Vivian,” I said. “As usual.”

I knew I should follow Vivian’s example. Stop worrying about a future I couldn’t predict and just live each day knowing that the Lord was near, angels standing by. The Lord didn’t forget Vivian, and he would never forget me. That’s what mattered most.

Before I left, I gave Vivian a long hug. “You know I love playing cards with you,” I said. “I just wish you’d let me win a game once in a while!”

“The minute you walk out the door, I forget who won,” she joked. “So it really doesn’t matter, does it?” We both knew what mattered most, and it would never be forgotten.

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