This past week has been full -very full in fact -of all kinds of things. But especially it has been full of many, many memories of a very special lady and friend of mine.
Last Saturday, my family and I all participated in the Walk for Autism at Penn State - a brisk, cold day but one which both Maya and Kurtis thoroughly enjoyed and the mega dose of fresh air apparently did Kurtis a whole lot of good as he slept very, very soundly Saturday night.
It was late Saturday night though that an e-mail came into my inbox with news that was a big shock for me. The message was that a very good, long-time friend of mine had died that day. I was speechless, totally speechless.
I knew my friend had numerous health issues -especially increasing in number over the past 4-5 years but I hadn't heard anything about her of late so assumed she'd been coping as well as could be expected, all things considered.
It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I called a mutual friend to inquire as to what had happened to our friend and I learned that she had passed extremely suddenly Saturday morning. As a matter of fact, her husband had found her unresponsive in her bed.
Now, I have to confess here that if I were to be able to choose the method by which I will someday pass from this earthly life, I think to go that quickly would be a blessing for me and also for my family too. It may not seem that way at the time but think about it -from the perspective of family members, it would be much, much easier on all concerned to not have to worry about someone dealing with atrocious diseases, mental and physicial disabling factors too. Granted, a sudden passing is difficult to cope with initially because of the huge schock of the loss but once reality sets in, it can also often bring about peace of mind easier and faster than if people have had to watch someone waste away and suffer greatly in the process.
And that is how I have to think about this loss of a very dear friend. She had for the past 4 years or more been virtually confined to a wheel chair, in a lot of pain from back and leg issues that prevented her from being able to walk.
But even with those issues, as well as other health concerns, it never deterred her spirit, her love of her family especially and her friendship with those around her.
About four years ago this spring and summer, she was recuperating from some very traumatic illnesses that had almost taken her life back then, but she had survived and was eventually transferred to a local nursing home to complete the recovery process. As it happened, this was the same nursing home where my daughter, Mandy, was working at the time as a nurse's aid.
Mandy knew my friend quite well as when she and my son were little, they often spent time with her and her children so my friend was like a second mother to Mandy. Most of the other patients on the floor where Mandy worked were much older, often with dementia and thus, difficult at times to converse with. But while our good friend was a patient there, Mandy was often able to slip into her room, catch a couple of minutes to talk to her and keep up with her recovery process then too. She would tell her that she was her own personal "Pbreath of sanity" while at work there as she could talk to her and get good, lucid responses that helped her make ti through her workday.
My friend was only a year older than me -a mere 66 -young by most standards of senior citizenship status. I remember her from my school days from seventh grade on until she graduated a year ahead of me. Friendly, optimistic -always optimistic -a very good student too, popular with one and all because she never looked down on others and never held herself above others as a result of her laid back attitude evident even then.
She really should have gone on to college but back then, there were not very many ways a family or potential student could get the funding for college if the parents had very few means to help with the expenses and so, she never went on to a higher education. But I think had she ever been able to fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher, she would have been a magnificent, totally involved and very loving teacher as children -all children -were always at the top of her list of favorite things.
When she met and married her husband, he was divorced -a single parent with custody of three small children. She took over the care of those children, saw to it that they were fed, clothed, taught to the very best of her abilities and she advocated for them wherever and whenever it was needed. She and her husband then also had three children of their own -bringing the head count of children up to six and there was never any discrimination between the three older and the three younger of the kids. She loved each and every one of them equally and saw the best each of those children had to offer while working with each child to help them to become the very best they could be.
Her husband used to drive a stock car -racing was a big event in her family's life for a long time and it was also something my ex-husband was very interested in as well. For several years, every Saturday night (that it wasn't raining) our two families could be found, parked on the hillside above the race track in Clearfield, watching her husband and our other favorite drivers run the track.
Her youngest child is three months younger than my son and the summer before those two were born often found us loading her five children and my older daughter into this big old station wagon they had and heading to the races together. One such Saturday evening, as we were on our way home, she got pulled over on the interstate. We were busy talking back and forth, the kids were playing and jabbering away in the back of the car and no doubt from time to time either she or I would yell back at them to keep things down, no jumping around, stuff like that. But when she realized she was being pulled over neither or us thought she'd been speeding -though it was of course a slight possibility -but the trooper came up to the car, asked for her license and registiration and then shined that flashlight in on both of us and all the children packed in the back of the station wagon and then, back on her and on me. In the process, he no doubt realized that there were two very, very pregnant women in that vehicle and he quickly wrote out a warning ticket to her -something about her tail light not working properly nad sped off to leave us continue on our way home.
We both laughed over that incident many, many times over the years mainly because of the look on the trooper's face when he saw both of us were pregnant and he no doubt was thinking he sure didn't want to be the one to have to assist in delivery of a baby with all those noisy rambunctous kids in the back of that vehcile on hand too!
That is just one memory of her that stands out very strongly in my mind but there are so many, many more -way to numerous to mention here but most of them mainly involve being able to have someone to sit and talk with over cup after cup of coffee. Someone to share the good events, the fun times, the cute expressions our children said, the worriies we each had of finances, unemployment issues at times, uncertainty of our lives, just about anything from soup to nuts were topics we talked about often, long and hard.
And the nicest thing ever about her was that she never ever passed judgement on others. She truly believed there was good somewhere in everyone.
And as difficult as it has been this week to come to reckoning that she is no longer with her family here or her friends -which were many, many, many -just how lucky I was for all those years to have known her and to be able to say that yes indeed, she was my friend and a darned good one at that!
She was one in a million -not rich, not famous, no celebrity -but rich in how her family adored her, how highly her friends thought of her and valued her friendship and how well-respected she had always been as a member of the community.
She has left her mark on those who knew her, those who loved her dearly, and her ways, her methods will long be remembered by all who knew her.
And I'm sure today, she is able to do somethig she hasn't been able to do in many years -dancing in heaven!
And I am so blessed too for having had the opportunity to share so much of my life with someone who truly was a beautiful, loving, very intelligent and oh, so good, a person.
May the memories you've left us with be only the good and stay with us for ever.
Joan Dianne Confer
Joan Dianne Confer