Today I remember my friend, Dora. I met Dora years ago through activities at my church. This makes total sense, since she was one of those dependable servants of God who served in many functions over the years. She and I were working as catechists during her last five years or so, and our paths crossed continuously for different reasons. I always looked forward to her smile and that ever-so-constant twinkle in her eye. We had a special relationship, she and I! I always teased her about her accumulation of years, and she teased me for my lack thereof. I was the only person allowed to call her an “old bat,” because it was always said with a smile and heartfelt love. She always laughed and hugged me and then gave me back what I had just dished out.
Dora was one of those dedicated people who spent her life serving others. Her husband had died before I met her, so she had plenty of time on her hands and spent it well. She worked with people going through bereavement, and often volunteered to say the rosary at the viewings of deceased parishioners. She was a chaplain at a local hospital and served on various parish and community committees. She and I shared a strong desire to educate our fellow parishioners about their faith, and we shared a lot of opinions. I enjoyed our talks about our faith and how well (or not) certain students were doing. Dora had accumulated, along with her abundance of years, an abundance of wisdom, and I was always ready to absorb some of what she knew.
The last time I saw Dora was several months ago, and I asked how she was doing. Over the years she had undergone multiple medical treatments to unclog her carotid arteries, and she had survived breast cancer many years ago, before we met. She had developed a dowager’s hump as well, but she always smiled and carried on her rather proper way. I never saw her without her lipstick and make-up, and her hair was always done. So there she was, dressed up for church, and her response to my question was that some preliminary tests indicated that she might have pancreatic cancer. My blood ran cold and for once I was speechless. What do you say at that time? I wished her well and asked her to let me know if I could help.
Shortly afterwards, I stopped at her house, but she was not home. I found out from a friend at church that she had moved in with her daughter on the north side of town during her treatment. I also found out that she had brain cancer. I knew, though I tried to deny it, that I would not see my friend alive again. Those accumulated years that I had teased her about were not working in her favor anymore. I sent her a few cards to wish her well, but I heard that she was tired and losing ground and spent much of her time sleeping and recovering from her chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
My dear friend died on Christmas day. We found out at mass the following Sunday, and when the announcement was made there was a sigh from the congregation. When I went to church for the recitation of her rosary, I could not help but think back on her work in this area. I did not go to see her in her casket, though I could make out the purple hat and its satin ribbon that she wore to cover the loss of her beautiful white hair, and I could see that she still wore her red lipstick. I wanted to remember her as I had always seen her – with the knowing smile and that ever-present twinkle in her eye, bustling off to do some errand or other.
Good bye, my dear friend! You will be missed, but I look forward to seeing you again someday.