Once upon a time I started reading the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books by the author writing under the name of Lemony Snicket about three children whose “lives are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched and will most likely fill you with deep despair…” and this quote from the author’s Web site is totally accurate. I started checking them out from the library. I read a few books in the series but finally quit because they really were just too depressing.
When unfortunate events befall our friends, however, we just can’t “quit” because what has happened to them is sad and depressing. Last summer a series of unfortunate events befell Judy, the woman who I consider my best friend. Her husband died of cancer on August 21. Charlie donated his body to a medical research institute, and she began to plan his memorial service and set the date in October.
However, those plans came to an abrupt halt because at the beginning of October, she fell off a step stool and broke the bones in her lower leg. She thinks she fell because the bones actually broke first. The break was very bad. The operation to permanently fix her leg had to be delayed because of the swelling, so during the first operation a temporary “erector set” was attached to her leg to keep it stable. Her leg was permanently repaired some weeks later... plates, pins, bone grafts. It took the orthopedic surgeon 9 hours to do it.
She was in the nursing home from October 2 until a day or two before Christmas. I became part of the cadre who went to her house during this time and fetched and carried and did “stuff” and visited her at the nursing home, where I met some delightful folk. I think it quite a remarkable testimony to Judy’s personality and how she affects people that her many friends were not just “fair weather” friends. They did not put her on the shelf, so to speak, because of the depressing things that were happening to her. She was not abandoned. In fact, two separate sets of friends invited her into their homes after she left the nursing home for some further rehab before she finally returned to her house.
And so Judy once again began planning Charlie’s memorial service, and we gathered on Saturday to honor his memory. It was quite a lovely tribute to him. She and the friends who helped her did an amazing job of presenting Charlie’s life in pictures and in displays of the things he was interested in, including books, the pottery he made, and the Native American artifacts and arrowheads he had collected along the way.
One feels that it is not quite right to say they had “fun” at a memorial service, but there were some very lighthearted moments after the service was over and the buffet was served.
Richard and I were among the first people through the buffet line, and we were sitting at a table by ourselves. I don’t know how long the table would have remained empty except for us, but I’ll never know because a woman named Marideth Sisco, a member of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship Charlie and Judy belong to, got up from where she was sitting at another table and came over and sat across from Richard, saying, “You shouldn’t be sitting by yourselves. You need someone to talk to.”
We knew who she was, yes indeed we did, but she had no clue who we were. We were strangers.
Marideth Sisco is a local celebrity. She has a regular program on the local National Public Radio station, and she gained some national attention by performing some of the music on the soundtrack of the film Winter's Bone, which won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival the year it was released.
And because she was sitting at our table, others from the UU Fellowship, who probably would not have sat there otherwise, also drifted over, and lively conversation erupted.
Her act of kindness, which I appreciated very much, meant we did not spend the meal isolated and feeling awkward. I'm thinking this is a "go and do likewise" situation for the future.