"Is your Comfort Room available next weekend?" The voice of my friend on the telephone sounded weary and faint. "I could sure use a respite."
I smiled, assuring her it was. Hanging up the phone, I walked down the hall to the room she'd inquired about. The Comfort Room developed quite by accident, but there is no doubt in my mind that the people who stay here are no accident at all. God brings them to us when they're most in need of comfort.
I looked around the room, running my hand lightly across the soothing pattern of the wallpaper. Walking over to the antique bed, I stretched out across the quilt with its blue and white wedding ring pattern and luxuriated in the familiar sense of comfort that settled over me like a feathery eiderdown.
My earliest memory of the bed goes back to when I was three years old. My parents had just brought my new baby sister to Grandma's house where I'd been staying. As Mom laid her on the bed, I stood on my tiptoes, eagerly peeking over the high mattress to catch a glimpse of her.
For as long as I can remember, the bed and its accompanying dresser and dressing table occupied what had once been the parlor of my grandparents' large Missouri farmhouse. During those long-ago summers, when all the grandchildren visited, "taking turns" was the order of the day. We took turns on the porch swing, took turns on the bicycle, and even took turns at the chores. But there was no taking turns when it came to sleeping in Grandma's bed. Even on hot, smothery, summer nights she let us all pile in around her at once. Our sweaty little bodies stuck happily together as we listened to Grandma's beloved stories of the "olden days" until, one by one, we fell asleep.
Those well-spun tales gave me a strong sense of family identity, pride, and comfort. And I needed plenty of comfort when clouds started building in the summery blue skies that stretched over the corn fields surrounding the farm. How I dreaded the wild, crashing, earsplitting midwestern thunderstorms that resulted from those massive clouds!
Standing at the window, I'd watch the lightning flashes intensify across the sky and count the seconds until I heard the low growl of thunder. Grandma told me that was how to tell how many miles away the storm was.
I hated nighttime storms the mostwhen I'd have to go upstairs to my bedroom, up even closer to the storm. Sleep was impossible. As the jagged slashes grew more brilliant, the time between the stab of lightning and the crash of thunder grew less and less.
Then suddenly, FLASH! KA-A-A-BOOM! The light and sound came as one! The storm was here! Right on top of me! At that point I'd leap from the bed, and with my sister close behind, we'd slam into our brother in the hallway. The three of us tore down the stairs as one.
Hearing our pounding feet, Grandma would already be scooted over in bed with the covers thrown back for us. We plowed beneath them, scrunching up as close to her as we could. While the thunder shook and rattled the house, she'd jump dramatically and exclaim, "Whew! That one made my whiskers grow!" And from under the pillows where we'd buried our heads, we couldn't help but giggle. In Grandma's bed we were always comforted.
There I found comfort not only from thunderstorms, but from lifestorms as well. Hurt feelings, broken hearts, insecuritiesall were mended there. When I was lucky enough to have Grandma to myself in her bedwhich wasn't oftenI'd tell her all my deepest secrets, knowing she took them very seriously.
When my father, her son, died of cancer, I was eight years old. On that last night of his life, instead of spending those moments with him in the hospital, Grandma gathered me into her bed. Curling her body around mine, she infused me with comfort I didn't yet know I needed.
In college, when a broken engagement had crushed my heart and hopes, she comforted me by saying, "The pathway to love never runs smooth, honey, but you'll find your way when it's right." Four years later, her prediction came true.
Shortly after my wedding, Grandma died, bringing an end to the unlimited source of love and comfort that I knew could never be replaced, the kind that only comes from a grandmother.
When my aunt called to tell me the beloved bedroom set was mine, I immediately drove to Missouri to pick it up. Although the beautiful pieces had to be placed in storage, I hoped that someday I'd have room for them in our home.
The years melted away with startling speed. Caught up in the happy frenzy of raising our two sons, I rarely thought of the bedroom set stuck away in the attic. There was too much present to think of the past. Before I knew it, our firstborn was packing his belongings to move on to a new phase of life.
The day Tyler left, I went into his empty room and sat down in the middle of the floor while memory after memory scurried up to tap me on the shoulder. His leave-taking had been more wrenching than I'd anticipated. Inside the echoey room I tried to come to grips with the door that had just closed in my life.
Quite abruptly, a thought came to mind. I raised my head and looked around my son's room with new eyes. I finally had room for Grandma's bedroom set!
For the next two weeks I worked on the room, lovingly choosing paint, wallpaper, and pictures. Frequent tears splashed into the paint tray as I pondered all the different seasons one passes through in a lifetime. When the painting and papering were done, my husband lugged the bedroom set down from the attic and helped me arrange it in the room. I stopped to consider the completed result and was drawn to the bed where I let my fingers trace around the grooves in the curved footboard of the wonderful old treasure. As I sat quietly, a familiar feeling began to embrace methe same feeling I'd had as a child with Grandma beside me in the bed. It was as if she were in the room with me right then, comforting me in this new stage of life I was entering.
Right then I christened it the "Comfort Room." From where I sat I prayed, "Lord, let everyone who stays in this room feel the comfort I'm feeling now. Bring people to us who need this comfort."
Our first guest in the Comfort Room was a friend who'd just lost her brother and two close friends to death. Next was a couple who were at a transition point in their life, not sure which direction to go. Then a young cousin arrived in need of a temporary home and an out-of-town uncle whose wife was flown to our medical center following a severe heart attack. From the day it was completed, God has seen to it that the Comfort Room is well used.
There is one guest, however, whose arrival I most anticipate. I'm waiting for the day when my son will return and bring with him a grandchild. Then I will be the grandma snuggling up with my grandchild in that old bed. I'll be the one spinning stories of the "olden days." And I'll offer to them what my grandma gave to meunending comfort, unlimited love.
Mayo Mathers is a writer who lives with her family in Oregon.
Copyright © 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.