My Oldest Friend

There is a commercial on TV about insurance or maybe it’s about investing…, either way, there’s a man explaining a study that was done about how long people are living now.  They set up a large canvas sort of prop in a grassy field, and the canvas has a graph, and on the graph are age ranges by the decade, i.e 40, 50, 60, etc.  They gave people large blue dots – about the size of dinner plates – and asked them to place the dot on or near the age of the oldest person they know.

The point?  People are living longer.

Every time I see that commercial, I think of Mrs. Lois, our next door neighbor.  I thought if I had been asked to place a blue dot on the graph, I’d pass the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s.  I would put that dot just a tiny bit beyond 100, to represent 102 years, the age of  Mrs. Lois Godwin.  Sadly, Mrs. Lois passed away, peacefully, on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.  The thing with her passing is that it wasn’t her mind in the end, it was her body that just gave out.

A woman already in her mid-eighties when we first met, and a retired school teacher, we soon became enamored by her warmth and friendliness.  I also quickly came to learn that Mrs. Lois was from another time.  A time when ladies still wore day dresses, had their hair done once a week, attended church as regularly as the pastor, called lunch, dinner, and dinner, supper.  Well, that last part is really a southern thing, not relative to the old times, but one that is still becoming lost with the influx of people moving here from other regions.

She would occasionally call me – usually when her daughter, Joanne, whom she lived with, was off running an errand.  Joanne would say later when I would tell her that her mother and I had a lively conversation, “Mama likes to get on the phone when I’m not around.”  Those conversations to this day, make me shake my head.  Mrs. Lois was on top of things, we could talk about current events in the world, or locally.  We could talk about how she remembered the way our house used to look, back before all the other houses came along.  We talked about the way things were then, versus now.  Her mind remained active, almost to the very end.  It was only months ago that she began to falter, no longer really knowing who was caring for her, (Joanne and her twin sister, Jean)

When she reached 100, her church gave her a birthday party and she sat graciously in a floral chair, her hair coiffed in the  manner she wore, dressed up in a suit, one spotted hand resting on the arm of the chair, the other ready to reach out to hold the  hand of the person who’d come by to tell her “Happy Birthday.”  She surveyed the room, her eyelids drooping with age, but she saw everything, everyone, and spoke to them all, using their first name.

Mrs. Lois loved to travel.  When she was ninety, she took a trip to California, where Jean resides.  They traveled along the coast to Carmel, enjoyed the site of the Pacific ocean, and other places.  When she came back, Joanne said, “Mama just about cried when the plane touched down in North Carolina.  She said she didn’t ever want to leave home again.”  I went over to visit her after that trip and she relayed how interesting it all was, but that she preferred to be right here, in the house where she’d raised four children, taught school, and outlived many, many of her own students.

A warm, golden presence has left us, during the season of giving, celebration, and love.  How appropriate this is, to me.  Mrs. Lois was the epitome of just that, a warm, giving, and loving individual, who will be missed by so many.

Peace and love to my oldest friend.  I was proud to have known you.

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