Thursday, December 04, 2003

She Was My Friend

“A friend loveth at all times….”
~ Proverbs 17:17

Someone once said that strangers are just friends waiting to happen. When we moved to Alma in 1979, I was a newlywed with a baby on the way. Keen’s uncle and aunt lived out in the country, but other than them, I didn’t know a soul. That’s why I was so grateful for the kindness of the widow woman next door who would soon become one of my dearest friends.

Mrs. Florence Thowe (pronounced “Tobie”) made me feel so welcome. I enjoyed her company and she enjoyed mine. We never ran out of things to talk about. Sometimes I’d call to see if she wanted to ride to Manhattan with me, and she always enjoyed getting out of the house and seeing the scenery along the way. Mrs. Thowe was so appreciative of any little thing we did for her. Of course, that only made us want to include her even more. She never put any expectations on our busy, young family. If we had time to visit, great, and if we didn’t, that was fine, too. She was just happy to see us whenever we had the time.

Mrs. Thowe had a big drawer full of toys in her living room from when her kids and/or grandkids were little. Whenever I’d stop by for a visit, the kids would toddle right over to the drawer, pull it open and dig in. Everything was new to them, so it kept them busy and gave us a nice chance to visit.

Mrs. Thowe liked to talk about her children - Kathy, Delores and Joe (a/k/a Jerry), and all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren (I used to know all of their names, too!). Whenever she received new pictures in the mail, she would proudly show them off.

Mrs. Thowe enjoyed being outdoors and going for walks. She had a beautiful yard where she would spend lots of time tending to her flowers.

Mrs. Thowe was a member of a very special group of women who called themselves “The Golden Girls.” They would get together for social gatherings about once a month (if I remember right), and whenever it was someone’s birthday they would all go out for lunch and treat the birthday girl. When Mrs. Thowe turned 90, Keen and I took a van full of the Golden Girls to the nursing home in Olathe where Mrs. Thowe lived. Her children hosted a wonderful luncheon for all of us. It was such a memorable day.

A few weeks before Mrs. Thowe passed away, I went to the nursing home for what I knew would be my last visit with my friend. Although I knew she was unresponsive, I just had to see her one more time. I watched her sleeping for several minutes when she began mumbling some words that I couldn’t understand. After listening closely, I realized that she was repeating the last part of The Our Father prayer. “To Thine be the glory…and the honor….” Tears welled up in my eyes as I wondered, “Could Mrs. Thowe be catching a glimpse of the other side?”

Whatever I witnessed that day, it seemed very special. I walked away with peace in my heart, knowing that this angel on earth would soon be joining the angels in Heaven.

Here’s a poem I wrote in honor of Mrs. Thowe, who would have turned 103 this Sunday.

She was my friend
(For Florence)

I was twenty years old
she was seventy-nine
An unlikely pair
in some people’s minds

But we quickly became
The best of friends
A relationship that lasted
Until the very end

When my kids were little
I would stop by her house
She had a drawer of toys
That kept them quiet as a mouse

Some days we’d take a drive
Other times we’d take a walk
But no matter where we went
We enjoyed a nice long talk

When Florence moved away
Our visits were more rare
But I always kept my friend
In my thoughts and in my prayers.

Then when her 90th birthday came
We surprised her with a celebration
And all the Golden Girls arrived
to say “Congratulations!”

Florence had a heart of gold
That I could not resist
And all the times we spent together
Have been greatly missed.

But I know that she’s in Heaven
where we will meet again,
Until that time, I’d like to say
I’m glad she was my friend.

Me & Mrs Thowe

The Golden Girls