Eleanor is a tall stately woman who undoubtedly has been a beauty in her days and even today cuts a striking figure though now she leans heavily on her walker while strolling slowly to the Pavilion lunchroom at Menno place where she is assigned to a lunch table near mine. We quickly progress from chitchat to more meaningful conversations. She recently lost a daughter through cancer she said, and sighed that I probably wouldn’t understand the pain associated with such a loss even after I told her that I too have lost a child.
“Did you?” she says absentminded, promptly carrying on “She was a real rascal but boy did I love her. She got what she deserved but still, I loved her so much.”
“I was married sixty-nine years with him when my husband died. The first fifty were fine, at least I had that. He used to be a good man, after work when his fellow workers took off for a beer, my husband came home to me. He was ridiculed for that, but then he didn’t care, even when they said things like ‘O, he's got to see mamma again.’
So, one time he did give in and had a few beers with them. The beer tasted good and what was more important to him, I think, he was now considered one of the boys. He liked both I guess, and then from once or twice a week going with them, it became more than that, and in the end he spend more time in the bar than at home. He was a happy man before, a reasonable good man actually, as much as can be expected of a man, I think; he was never miserable before, but then he was. He changed from a good man to a miserable poop. It broke my heart.”
“We used to have fun together and never missed a dance on Friday night, but not the last nineteen years. I can’t say that he was ever rough with me though. O, no. He probably didn’t dare, but our fun together was gone, gone, gone.”
“None of the children took after him that way.” She stopped, tears welling up in her eyes.
“I must rephrase that, my youngest drank too. I cried for her lots and lots, she deserved what she got but still I loved her. I cried for my husband, after all we had fifty good years together but I cried more for my daughter, even though she was such a handful, I loved her; the more troublesome she became, the more I loved her.”
“Why is it that we go through so much pain when we give birth, and yet suffer even more when we lose our babies after they’re grown up? I do not go to church anymore because I can’t walk. I am Catholic, you know. Every Friday Father calls on me to partake in the Holy Eucharist.
So, you be good now and the good lord willing I’ll be seeing you tomorrow again.”
I woke up with chest-pains.
“You look terrible. You should be in the hospital,” said Margaret, my able house keeper, right after she arrived the following morning for the weekly cleaning and organizing of my residence. The hospital is directly across the road on which I live.
What she ordered when she called 911, I don’t know, but within five minutes not one, but two ambulances showed up, followed by a monstrous large firetruck.
My living room was filled up with half a dozen uniformed man including a petite female fireman, and from there on in I was not in control of anything anymore, much less of myself.
I felt myself hovering between floor and ceiling, and being strapped onto a stretcher. This time maybe Margaret was right about me needing help. I asked her to come along and luckily she managed to get a ride in the second ambulance. In this manner the procession of three emergency vehicles transported me from Menno Place across the road to the emergency ward of the City Hospital, a distance of about three hundred feet!
The only one other than my rescuers witnessing my exodus was my table-buddy John, who
pointed a finger at me when I passed him on top of the stretcher in the lobby. Obviously shocked he cried “It is you.” Touched by his sincere dismay at seeing me being carried out to the ambulance I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t all that bad, but the attendants did not stop for John or me and raced me to the wide open doors of the trauma truck.
After being released from the hospital, where they found a blood clot in my lung, John asked if I was still hurting and when I said that the pain was gone, he was visibly excited.
“When I saw it was you” he said, “I immediately started praying that the pain would go away. And it worked. God heard my prayer.”
The blissful smile did not leave his face as he said
“If you want anything of God, all you have to do is ask him.”
Eleanor was less complimentary after my mentioning of getting old.
“Let not anyone tell you that we’re old, we are reconditioned teenagers, you especially, you are way too young to be old; anyways I was not too worried about you,” she said, “it is only the good ones who die young, and I don’t think you are that good. Anyways, see you tomorrow, the good lord willing.”
That did not happen as Eleanor died that very night in her sleep. She was 92 years.
Not 92 years old, for she had lived her 92 years among the living staying young.
Eleanor was special for she was a child of God.