Cathedrals and Connections

Silhouettes: When people connect with one another

There are many different reasons to follow your dreams. This week’s post comes from a heartwarming story that Nikki, my American niece-to-be, told me a few weeks ago.

Sometimes your dreams and passions can sustain you through devastating times. It helps, during a period of illness, depression or heartache, to throw yourself headlong into something you’re passionate about.

This was the reason that Ray, an eighty-plus gentleman from West Virginia, turned to art to help him fight Alzheimer’s and the onset of dementia. Ray’s passion was making paper models, and his heart particularly lay with cathedrals.

Abbey, a travelling nurse, regularly called in to care for Ray during these tough times. And during one memorable visit, she told him about her daughter Nikki and the big decision she had recently made.

“My daughter has left the States,” she told Ray. “She’s moved all the way to New Zealand!”

Many Americans have never even heard of New Zealand, but Ray knew where she meant and wanted to know more.

“She’s gone to live in Christchurch,” Abbey told him.

Ray was shocked. He knew about Christchurch and its devastating earthquakes and was particularly moved by the plight of the city’s lovely cathedral. In his own way, Ray had wanted to commemorate the beautiful building.

He led Abbey over to his collection of beautiful models — and there it was. A stunningly, intricate paper model of the Christchurch Cathedral in all its former glory.

Paper Model of ChristChurch Cathedral

Now it was Abbey’s turn to be shocked as Ray presented her with the lovely model. When she protested, he insisted that he wanted her to have it. Ray passed away shortly after, but Abbey now has his special gift to remember him by.

Abbey’s little cathedral is so much more than an intricate model; it’s a symbol of empathy and connection. Dementia did not rob Ray of empathy. He understood the grief associated with the loss of Christchurch’s precious cathedral and chose to honour it in his own, special way. With his gift, Ray also gave Abbey a second connection with Nikki’s new home.

When she comes to visit her beautiful new grandson, there’ll be more connections; a new extended family to meet. Perhaps Abbey and Nikki will visit the real Cathedral with them. 

American and Kiwi, beginning to understand each other just a little more, and to treasure new friendships formed.

Building connections between people young and old —  between countries, cultures and religions — is vital. It’s the way that we will move the people of our world towards peaceful acceptance of each other. It’s the way to build trust.

Everything starts with one person connecting with another; it continues with empathy and hope. Connecting begins with me and with you. I hope this becomes a passion that we all can share.

Thank you, Ray.

Thanks also to Nikki and Abbey for allowing me to tell their special story.

Images of Christchurch Cathedral after the 2011 earthquake are courtesy of Karyn Druce.

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