28 February 2012


She was my first Sunday School teacher -- way back when I was three or four years old.

I don't remember a single lesson she ever taught. All I can see in my mind's eye is her squarish face with the gold-rimmed glasses set against the baby blue of the classroom walls as we sat around the low wooden table.

I don't know if I ever saw her actually smile, but I never really saw her frown either.

But she talked. Oh, she was always talking. Her face probably had no chance to smile or to frown -- her mouth was always changing shape, always moving.

She never seemed to age. In all the years I knew her she never seemed to get any older, though she passed through nearly two decades in that time. All her wrinkles had set in by the time she was my Sunday School teacher and it seemed not a single one was added since.

She was forthright, rather loud, and nothing if not opinionated. It seemed to be a trait in the family -- good German stock, I'm told. She cared about things, though the vehemence with which she did so was rather off-putting to those not used to such forceful decisiveness.

She was a tower. Strongly built, firmly set.

But she was not one of those who just sat around and grumbled about how terrible things were. No, no.

She was a member of every board she could find, every committee relevant to the things she cared about. She was involved in everything. She was the change she wanted to see in things. Some disagreed with her, sometimes strongly, but no one could say she was a lazy whiner.

Though four years his junior, she faithfully supported her brother, his only constant in a family broken by greed. Card games, church choir, Thursday morning coffee, she was his rock.

And then the ailment which had so nearly claimed her brother years before... a heart attack. Rushed to the hospital. A string of infections, two other operations she shouldn't have needed. Her birthday somewhere in the middle of it all. Flat on her back, a trach tube rendering her unable to speak.

Even now her fierce independence shone through -- she refused all visitors except her own children. No one needed to see her like this.

For months she ebbed and flowed. Finally there was a stretch of significant progress and she was moved out of the ICU.

And then Sunday morning came the call to her daughter -- respiratory distress. Hours later, a stroke. She was moved back to ICU, family was called.

Then on the morning of the twenty-eighth, her last earthly memory was made.

Though I can't remember a single Sunday School lesson she taught me all those years ago, I can still hear her voice. Even though I can't remember whether her short-cropped hair was light blonde or white -- or if it made a transition between the two over the years -- I can still see it softly permed and piled above her head. I still see the plain-style floral-print blue and green dresses she would wear to church with gold-plated earrings and a large ring on her soft white hand.

Though I hardly knew her, in an odd way I miss her. And my heart aches for those who knew her well.

In memory of H.M.G.
1934 ~ 2012

No comments: