So today is Tuesday. I have checked my calendar and everything. This means that today I have a new topic to blog about. This topic I thought a little strange and wondered how I would work with it, until yesterday evening. So for the foreseeable future, the Tuesday topic will be: Today I heard...... See what I mean by strange, or perhaps interesting would be a better term. Well here we go.
Today I heard (okay...actually yesterday), that a lady from both my town and my church died. She was in her 90's, so it really should not have been a shock, but it was. When I heard, it felt as if I had been gut punched and all the air was knocked out of me. Why? Because this was no ordinary 90 something lady.
The lady I speak of, her name was Loretta. Loretta was a fixture in my small town for many years. She and her late husband had raised their kids out on the farm and then later in life moved into town. She had been a staple in our little Catholic church and if memory serves me, I believe she once told me that she and her husband had been one of the families who helped build our original church.
When I was young, I must confess that I was not fond of Loretta. She was fairly tall, rather stern looking and very direct. She was a no nonsense type of person and had very little patience with any form of said nonsense. It wasn't until I was a grown woman that I realized that behind that directness was a very kind heart. After my husband and mother died and we moved back to town, Loretta was one of the first to seek me out. In her gruff way she let me know that should I ever need anything, she would be the one for me to call. Her reaching out to me was both surprising and comforting.
Next door to me lived a very good friend of Loretta's named Mrs. F. Mrs. F. was a lady who had for years been a neighbor to Loretta out on the farm and then once widowed, she too moved into town. Mrs. F. was in very poor health and my elder son would mow her yard and help her with odd jobs and Z would go over and keep her company. If ever I couldn't find Z I would know he was sitting in Mrs. F's kitchen talking her leg off and regaling her with all our family secrets. Loretta appreciated the fact that the boys reached out to her friend and told me so often. When Mrs. F left this world, Loretta was the one who found her. I knew it was hard on her as I stood in the yard with her waiting for the ambulance to arrive. She refused to get sentimental though. Instead she said, "She had a good life and this was the way it was suppose to happen. She just sat in her chair and went to sleep." It was this direct Loretta that I had grown to love.
Loretta always went like a house a fire. You would see her either coming or going in town. She was always at daily Mass and then she had her group of friends she would meet for coffee. She always stood pencil straight and walked like a person on a mission. It only took a quick look at her face to know what she might be thinking about any given circumstance and she was never shy about conveying those thoughts. One day I was talking to her and I said something about how important she was to our church community and that I hoped she would be around for a very long time to come. She practically glared a whole through me as she said, "Now why would you wish that on me? Practically everyone I know is dead. What do you want me to stick around for?" Then she asked if I knew how old she was. I didn't. To me Loretta was ageless and I had never really thought about her as any particular age. At the time she was 88 years old. I was shocked. I honestly thought she was in her late 60's or early 70's. When I told her that, she laughed out loud.
One Sunday morning I went to Mass at the Villa (a little chapel off the nursing home we have in town). It was a Mass Loretta attended fairly often. As I was getting ready to leave after Mass, Loretta grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. She told me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she was going to have surgery. Then in a very direct manner she said, "I need prayers." I knew better than to show sympathetic emotion, so I simply said okay. Within a very short time, she was back to church and back to herself as if nothing had ever happened. Knowing better than to ask too much, I simply walked up to her after Mass one Sunday and asked, "You okay?" Her reply was a curt, "Yes!" and all was right in the world again.
Of late I noticed that Loretta didn't go from kneeling to standing quite as easily as she used to and there was just the slightest slump in her normally straight back. In fact, it occurred to me not too long ago that 90+ years....and many of those spent on a farm, were hard on even the toughest body. Eventually age would take its toll, but it was obvious that Loretta still maintained the upper hand. In fact just a couple of weeks ago I saw her sitting in her pew at church along with some of the other older widowed ladies of the parish. She still looked and acted like Loretta.
So last night as I was looking at facebook, our church page notified us that Loretta had passed away yesterday morning. I had to read it several times for it to sink in and then my mind began racing, trying to think if I had heard she was ill or having problems. I had not. So I contacted another lady in our parish hoping she would say it was all a mistake. It was not. She had been having some very recent health issues, but not life threatening ones, so her death was unexpected for everyone.
I know Loretta had a good long life and that she likely was very happy to go when God called her. For myself though, I am incredibly sad that I never got to tell her what knowing her meant to me. Of course Loretta didn't go in for all the sentimentality and likely she would just have given me the look that said, "I know, so there's no use in you saying it," but still, I would like to have told her anyway.
There is a generation in my town that is quickly leaving us. They were strong, hardworking and they helped make this town what it is today. Loretta was among those.
So, today I heard....that a one of kind woman, with a stern demeanor and the kindest of heart and spirit left this world, but not before she left her one of a kind mark on me, our church and this town. RIP dear Loretta. You will be sorely missed.