A couple of weeks ago, I made a gift for Evelyn to give to her today. Her forty-ninth birthday. However, when her husband called to deliver the sad news that she was near the end, I decided to send it to her daughter, Rachel. It was a smile box.
My friend, Nay Nay and I had kept one between our desks in the shop of the department store where we worked many years ago. When one of us became grumpy, the other would reach in the box. It was filled with pretty paper smiles we had cut out of magazines. We'd stick to our lip gloss and continue to listen patiently until the fussbudget looked up and saw the fake smile stuck to our face. It's kind of like banjo music, you could't help but laugh when you saw it. Nay was aquainted with Ev. She suggested I make her a smile box to get through her days. I figured Rachel might need it more, given the way events had unfolded.
Last weekend, I spent in Richmond, saying good bye to a dear friend. A sweet, happy spirit. A kind and loving mother and wife, whose beautiful children faced the visitation with poise and dignity. I told my mother on the phone the next day how well Ev's kids were handling it. She replied, "Well, Evelyn was very mature and poised, you and Heather? Not so much..."
My high school friend, Thommy was sweet enough to babysit me throughout the ordeal. I met him at the funeral on Monday. He steeled me to go in. Inside, was filled with many of our dearest high school friends. Evelyn was good at that. She was a collector of people. Once you got in her circle, it was hard to leave it. You didn't want to.
We sat in a pew with the others from our class, when a hand touched my shoulder. I turned. My eyes clouded with tears. It was the third part of our triangle! Heather had come to say goodbye to Evelyn!
We had not seen each other for thirty years.
It was as if time never passed. I think it was Evelyn's last gift to me. To Heather.
She had been trying to get us together for years. It just never worked out. Until now.
Happy Birthday, Evelyn. Thank you so much for your warmth, your humor, your talent, your friendship --your life.