A couple of weeks ago a dear friend passed away. As I read about and talked with her family about her last weeks, I would find myself weeping…sometimes for myself and that I would not see her again this side of eternity, sometimes for her and the quickness, but at the same time slowness, in which her illness was taking her away, and sometimes for her family who were daily watching her slow decent into forgetfulness.
The first time I saw Ms. Mary I wanted to know her. There was something in her manner, her countenance, that was so inviting. When I began to know her, I was not satisfied with just knowing her. I wanted to be her friend.
I loved sitting by her on the couch as she knitted, listening to stories of her life in Ireland. She would always say that she was talking too much, which I refuted because I just wanted her to keep telling me stories. As she spoke in her gentle, Irish voice about her deceased husband or son, her eyes would begin to shine with tears. She spoke of how much she missed them and how she longed for the day to be reunited with them. She spoke of how ready she was to see Jesus as well.
She spoke of humorous things, smiling and laughing gently as she did so. She drew me into her memories. And then she would turn around and ask me questions about my children, my marriage, my life, giving me counsel that only someone who has lived 90 years and seen the things she had seen can give.
On first sight, she seemed frail…and physically she was frail. But she was also as strong as iron with the gentlest and most loving heart…at least, that was always my impression of her and it will be my lasting memory.
I will never forget the evening we spent with her and her family before we left Winston-Salem to come to Italy. After dinner, she called me to her bedroom to speak to me privately. She held out a little box to me. Upon opening it, I found a golden necklace with a three leaf clover. She explained that the Irish don’t find four-leaf clovers lucky. It is the three leaf clover that has meaning because the three leaves symbolise the Trinity. She asked me to take the necklace and when I wore it to think of her and say a prayer for her. She pulled me close and held me there a while, neither of us wanting to let go. As I got into my car, I looked up at her window and saw her standing there, watching us leave. She stayed in that window, waving goodbye until we were out of sight.
I still wear the necklace she gave me…and while she was here I thought of her and prayed for her every single time I put it on. Now when I wear it, I still think of her…my wee, strong as iron, tender-hearted friend.