There are few people in the world that know the deepest parts of my heart. Those people are few, and I like it that way. I trust my heart to break it open and spill out the pieces and those closest will gently pick up the pieces examine them and carefully help me put those pieces back in order. Mary Alice was one of those people in my life.
I did not know that I was risking a short friendship when we met almost ten years ago. She was 82 years old. When I met her I thought she was in her 60's. She could scramble around, serving others, cooking up five course meals and kept her home neat as a pin. She walked a mile everyday, and was fit and healthy. I thought 89 year olds walked slow, with canes, and said "what that, eh".
She was sitting on a bench just inside the front door of a show home I was decorating. She watched quietly, smiling each time I passed with a load of stuff. I was deep into decorating the rooms and mentioned to her that I was not to keen on sewing and had sewn all the linens and window treatments for the two rooms I was doing. In her sweet voice she said, "well I sew." We sat and chatted and I had decided to give her project. She was so precious that I was not sure what project to give this old lady to sew, but she said it with confidence and I trusted her. This was our very first meeting.
This one project birthed a friendship that has my heart breaking and rejoicing today. Mary Alice has passed away. At 93 years she is now at peace in Heaven. I am rejoicing for where she is, but my heart is breaking that I will no longer be sitting at the end of her counter chatting away. I will no longer be pouring through her cookbooks and getting tips on cooking. I will no longer sit upstairs in her glider rocker, as she sews and sews and sews.
She spoke wisdom into my heart just by loving me. Telling me when I should be more firm in raising my teenagers. She was the one person, so many years ago, that reminded me every time we were together that "that man loves you very much". David and I had struggles and I could not just throw our personal stuff to the winds of any friendship. I confided in Mary Alice and she had no ears to hear my complaints and showed me just how to love and honor my husband. He and I had been married less than a year when she and I met.. She had no ears to hear my kind of hard, because every one has hard, she just reminded me of that one important thing called love. "that man loves you very much" and that statement followed by ways in which to love and honor my husband. The wisdom of a woman who was married for over 50 years. She lost her husband over 25 years ago, and lived out her life serving and loving others. I am sure there are many who could speak the same of Mary Alice.
When I was 7 months pregnant with Emerson, she invited me to a birthday lunch and gathered many of her church friends. I laid on her sofa and slept through the entire thing. I don't remember any of their names and who the gifts were from. I slept through the lovely lunch she prepared. She knew that having a birthday so close to Christmas meant few parties in my life, so she invited me into a birthday party with strangers. She had a beautiful heart of service. Rather than wake me up, she covered me with her favorite purple blanket. When I woke everyone was gone. She just laughed and said I must have need sleep more than a party.
Many hours I sat in her rocking chair. It was placed next to her amazing sewing center. She sewed, I watched and learned and our conversations would go on for hours. I have to confess that I had to always "plan" my time with Mary Alice. I also had to make sure I had not eaten for hours. Each visit with Mary Alice was well over three hours and always included a large home cooked, baked from scratch meal. One evening, Emily and I had to pop over for something. She knew we were coming. As we walked in the door the smells of good food about knocked us over. There Emily and I sat, eating our second dinner that night. She always made something special for me. She always reminded me that I am serving my family and five children, so when I come to her house she gave me her slippers and wanted me to just rest, and she would serve me. Resting in friendship with this lovely little lady, who loved me no matter what.
I was with her four weeks ago. All day, laying on her couch. She was bundled in her favorite purple throw blanket. Her body week. She lifted her shirt to show me how skinny she had gotten. She had just returned from a big trip to visit friends. I helped her unpack her purple suitcases and put them away. I could tell her time was not going to be much longer. Several months earlier she was diagnosed with cancer. When she called to tell me last fall, I was shocked, but she laughed and reminded me that she has lived a full life. I laughed with her and then I cried, because the prognosis was not good and I wanted her in my life for much longer.
At the end of our time together we hugged for a very long time. I told her that she had been one of my best friends. This was not news to her as she knew her place in my heart. I reminded her of how her wisdom helped build the important foundations in my marriage. I reminded her of just how much I loved her and that my walking out that door might mean not seeing her again, because as the doctors had said at most six month to live and she was into that 5 month forecast. I hugged her and together we both cried and then we both started laughing. We both had a terrific friendship. Long phone conversations, long visits, and she showed me how to be strong.
On the day of Emily's high school graduation she called me. "What can I do for you today, I know you are busy with those boys, and I can cook for the party, anything just let me know. " I told her that it would mean the world to just have her come, and that 89 year old precious friend came. Now the funny of this night. I had ordered super sized subways to serve guests for Emily's post graduation party. Mary Alice took one look, and then said "I am not saying anything, but I could have cooked up the entire spread for you." She laughed at my subs. I loved that she could speak her mind and yet never offend me.
I could tell so many wonderful stories of our friendship. I needed a grandmother, a mom, and a friend in my life. She came, like a sweet angel and covered my heart with love and care. One phone call to Mary Alice and her wisdom would pour into me. Sitting through an entire pregnancy, rocking in her chair as she sewed and shared friendship will now be memories. I have thanked God for bringing Mary Alice into my life for many years now. I had a precious gift in that friendship and now she sits with our Maker.
Dear Mary Alice,
Thank you for loving me. For caring for me. For driving me to the dr. when I should have been driving you. Thank you for teaching me how to be a better wife. A wife who would love and honor the man who loves me. You will be missed. Those long phone conversations of you telling me about your next project, your thoughts on this season's "Dancing with the Stars" and then asking me questions about my life. We laughed so much. Rest in Him sweet gal.