“You moved here from Malaysia? That was very brave of you. I always think people who change countries are very brave. Although my own father was one of those people. He came over from Scotland...
“When I wanted to get married, he told me, 'Not without you going to Scotland first.' In those days you had to sail. It took six weeks each way. In the time that I was away, my husband built a house on the orchard and ordered flowers for the wedding and all that sort of thing. Later on, he asked me, 'Do you think that was Dad's way of testing the relationship to see if it would last?'
“My husband died suddenly 22 years ago. I was sixty-two then- yes, I'm eighty-four now. Are you sure you still want to come and have tea with such an old lady? No, he wasn't ill. The evening before, we took a walk by the river near where we live. We rested on a bench and he looked at me and said, 'You're perfect.' Which wasn't true, but it was very nice, and the next morning he- the other thing he said right then was, 'You're better looking today than when I first met you,' and both those things weren't true, but they were lovely because he was saying how he felt. The next morning, at about three o'clock, because he had to get up very early for work – he worked in the Flemington markets supplying fresh fruit and veg – well, the next morning he was gone. And I always think that was a special gift of God's grace, to hear him say those things just before.”
We talked a little more, she repeated her invitation for tea at her home sometime, she impulsively gave me a hug. For one timeless moment the gap between eighty-four and thirty, Scotland and Malaysia, the 1960s newlywed grower couple and the white-haired woman sitting alone beside me, faded into the briefest of trivialities.
And then we walked out of the sanctuary into life as normal – if ever it is – to the foyer where a friend asked for a ride home, where people were drinking coffee out of non-biodegradable foam cups, carrying conversations in defiance to the humming, high-pitched energy field that always seems to emanate from kids' church downstairs.