Sources of Joy – Days 82 and 83
That might seem like a strange title given that I have just returned to work, having taken a break to deal with moving house. The truth is that my new environment is very relaxing indeed. Despite the many chores to complete before I can say that we are truly installed, just being here gives me more pleasure than I have ever experienced in a holiday flat or hotel. In fact, the chores do not feel like chores at all. I am a bit like a delighted puppy who has discovered lawn for the first time.
By way of gentle coincidence, a woman of 89 died in the village two days ago.
Eight years ago to the month, João and I were on holiday in Portugal, in this very village. We met this lady, Maria do Carmo Neves, known as Maria Cândida, and various diminutives which I do not know how to spell. At the time, João conversed with her on several occasions. In those days, João was a talker and a half, and a passionate, if unorthodox, evangelist when you got her going. As we bade our farewells in Alfontes, Maria Cândida’s parting words to us, as she stood with her crutches in the middle of the square, were, “Sem fé não há vida”, which means literally, “Without faith, there is no life”. This became a kind of mantra, to borrow from another religion, for us both, and was a shortcut reminder of our own faith as we faced with determination the considerable challenges encountered in Zimbabwe in the two years before we emigrated and came to Portugal – in faith.
I enjoyed a moment of gratification just before Christmas last year. I was able to tell this lovely old lady the above story in detail in simple, but pretty faultless (I think!) Portuguese, and finally give her credit for having inspired João and I. Her face beamed with humble joy, as I thanked her for something she had thought nothing of at the time and had quite forgotten. I told her this story in the company of our landlady for the first five months in Portugal, who had taken Maria Cândida into her home when she became too infirm to look after herself.
Now, here’s the link: My former landlady’s sister is the sister-in-law of my new neighbour across the road, whose bucket of peaches given to me on Monday were this afternoon transformed into a couple of jars of peach chutney. I made it after the funeral.
As I watched the last slab of stone covering the grave today in the dry heat beneath the beautiful Algarvian sky, I heard myself say aloud, “Depois da morte, há vida também” – literally, “After death, there is life, too.”