She must have stood on this rocky promontory overlooking the Atlantic, just as I did on a cold, rainy March afternoon - watching early spring beat back the last gray weeks of winter. It was low tide, and the black, seaweed-draped underbellies of the huge red rocks were exposed. It took vision to imagine this scene in summertime, when the New England sun is out in force. When the waves are blue, sending up towers of spray as they break over the sun-baked rocks.
My friend had that kind of vision. She saw beauty and promise where others saw ugliness and despair. She had to see that way. Otherwise she couldn't have survived the crises she suffered during her years in Lynn.
Somehow, because of those very crises - and the way my friend faced them down - I love her all the more. I know she'd understand the adversities I've faced. She's been there. And I respect that.
You see, my friend was widowed just months after her first marriage. She had chronic indigestion and kidney trouble for decades. Her son, Georgie, was sent away by her family when he was four. Her marriage to a philandering dentist, Daniel Patterson, was nearing breakup when she moved to Lynn, Massachusetts in 1864. And she was virtually penniless - forced to pack up her meager possessions and move from boardinghouse to boardinghouse in and around the shoe-manufacturing town of Lynn.
Yet at this desperate point, the tide of Mary Baker Eddy's life turned. Her long search for health and security culminated in a life-transforming epi-phany. In February 1866, she fell on an ice-crusted sidewalk at the corner of Oxford and Market Streets, gravely injuring her head and spine. Two days later, she was taken by sleigh to her boardinghouse at 23 Paradise Road in nearby Swampscott.
On the surface, what happened in that boardinghouse room was straightforward enough. Mary read in the Bible about one of Jesus' healings. Then - to everyone's astonishment - she got out of bed, dressed, and walked into the parlor.
But what happened inside of her was revolutionary. She heard an unmistakable message: that God was her very Life. Not in words, but in an overpowering feeling that could no more be stopped than a rising tide. It filled her with conscious spiritual power she'd never known before.
Mary Baker Eddy never let go of that moment. And, in a sense, that moment never let go of her. It drove her to study the Bible day and night until she laid bare the laws of God that had healed her. To painstakingly write down what she understood about the "Christian Science" those laws represented. To spend the next 45 years of her life writing, revising, and perfecting "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" - the book that announced that the Comforter Jesus promised had come.
This overriding commitment gave Mary Baker Eddy - my friend and humanity's friend - the stamina to endure years of homelessness and poverty in Lynn. It got her through some 27 moves between 1866 and 1875, as she tested her system of Christian healing and wrote Science and Health.
Through all this, Mary returned time and again to this promontory where I stood that day. The red rocks jutting out into the Atlantic reminded her of the strength and security of Truth itself. The "angry" waves of life might crash around her, she wrote in 1868, but she wasn't afraid. She knew that Christ would "come" to her across those waves - and plant her feet on the "rock" where she'd be safe forever.
These are the lessons Mary Baker Eddy learned in Lynn. And as she expanded her ministry southward to Boston in the early 1880s, she wouldn't forget them.
The rain stopped, and sunset filled the horizon. The lights of Boston started to glow across the bay. And I thought how those city lights must have beckoned my friend forward - to proclaim the Comforter to the world.
In my distress
I cried unto the Lord,
and he heard me.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor