Helen lived in Scotland and that is where I met her, through our church there. We soon became fast friends and the children and I spent many happy afternoons in her sitting room, visiting and drinking lots of tea. We always celebrated birthdays together. Here is a picture from Helen's birthday, a few months before we left Scotland:
For Andrew's last birthday in Scotland, Helen insisted on providing the cake since I was so busy with other things. She ordered a cake from her favorite bakery and it came complete with a car on top for Andrew. He loved it!
I always loved Helen's house. It was here that she spent most of her childhood, and all of her adult years. It was filled with family furniture and mementos. There was a walled garden out back, with plenty of large heather bushes, and, in the spring, beautiful bulbs in bloom.
Helen is the one who introduced me to the BBC Good Food magazine. Each month she would pass on to me her copy, which I always read through and saved. (I have a huge pile in my closet that I brought back with me). That magazine played a major role in my cooking development. Helen's cooking specialties were soups and chutneys. Our visits always included some sort of conversation about cooking.
Other favorite memories of Helen were the times I left the children at home and met up with Helen downtown. We started with a nice long cup of tea and a scone at the Goldroom and ended with a walk up into town -- sometimes stopping at a charity shop to see what treasure we might find, but always ending up at Donnie's for one or two groceries, and most often a sack of raisins and grapes for the children.
Saying goodbye to Helen was one of the things I dreaded most about leaving Scotland. Somehow I figured I might not see her again on this earth. We said goodbye, but we kept in touch, and spoke on the phone each week until Helen went into hospital.
A friendship like this is a special gift from God. One never knows when a "Helen" might be waiting just around the corner -- someone you meet for the first time and have no idea how special they will become. I thank the Lord for Helen and the blessing she was to our lives.