Today I want to write about someone who I lost recently. In total, I only interacted with her three times over the last year. I engaged in many conversations about her, but only had direct contact with her a handful of times. Yet, I felt like she made an impact on my life. She inspired me. Some people are just like that.
First, let me say that she was Irish. That says a lot, right? I’m sure she could drink me under the table with her eyes closed. Her personality was larger than life. Her life’s motto was, “I’m not here for a long time, but I’m here for a good time.” She is one of the few people who could boast that she lived true to her philosophy, true to her ideals.
The last time I sat at her kitchen table, we were ironically talking about my mother and the experience of her death. My mom and I were close as close could be. Everyone was worried about me losing her because I depended on her so much. But I was one of the people who was able to accept her passing the most easily. Why? Because she was ready to go. We had sincere, deep conversations and she was completely at peace with moving on. She felt she had a fulfilling life and was prepared- and actually looking forward to- meeting the God of her faith.
Mrs. O’Dea chimed in about how she identified with some of that. The conversation turned to some of the frustrating ways that the medical system dealt with my mom and how she unnecessarily suffered. This led to her sharing a story about her own medical condition. She had been living a miraculous life the last six years. She had an issue that the doctors wanted her to be treated for and she made the decision to defy treatment and the odds. And she was sitting at her table six years later, enjoying life more fully than most people do.
She was a dance teacher in her younger years. I’ve seen pictures of her. She was truly stunning. I ran into her about a month ago out at a store and told her she looked like a movie star. I wasn’t trying to flatter her, it was the truth. It wasn’t because of her looks in and of themselves, but the way she carried herself. Confident. Bold. Colorful.
We usually ended up talking about karaoke. I regret never following through on going out with her, but you know how time passes and before you know it, it’s too late.
What I won’t forget about our last get together, is her enthusiasm about her latest favorite CD. It was all Disney music, but they were performances by folks like Ella Fitzgerald. The conversation would be going on full force, and she would suddenly hush us all up. “Listen to this part,” she would say. And she would close her eyes dramatically and then say something like, “Mmmm… that was gorgeous.” As a musician myself, I loved watching her. She truly let the music move her. She was genuine and she was contagious. Then she would announce, “If you aren’t going to sing and you aren’t going to dance, well, you might as well be dead.” She rocked.
Then there would be moments when she would talk about her son and how much she loved his curly, blond hair when he was a baby. The fondness in her voice and the softness in her eyes, is something only another mother can truly identify with. It was like he was still four years old, rather than the 45-year-old man he is today.
Anyhow, how ironic that less than two weeks after our visit and conversation, she died suddenly. Loss of any kind can trigger your own history, but this one definitely hit me. She was 72, just like my mom was when she died. She had been married to the love of her life for 51 years. My parents had been married 52. Even though I may not have known for a long time, knowing her was a GREAT time.
I have often closed my eyes in the last week and just remembered her face while listening to that music. I want to live my life like that. I want to allow myself to savor moments like that. Especially because I know all too well, it can all be over way, way, way too soon.
Thanks, Mrs. O’Dea. You will be sorely missed, but remembered with great admiration.