The hush that winter brings was broken Sunday afternoon by the distant wail of sirens. As the wail became less distant, we realized that the louder it became, the more likely it was the sirens were coming for one of our own.
Turns out this time they were for a widow in our ward. Her name is Lois. I don’t know her well. I know next to nothing about her family. Her story is now lost to me. I just know she died alone in the cold dark of winter. And no one knew. The abandoned newspapers strewn at her door indicate she may have been gone a day or two before anyone even realized they ought to have missed her.
This breaks my heart.
My boys used to deliver her paper. She lived in a tiny square house that sat rather isolated on its nearly otherwise empty lot. Clearly humble circumstances aside, she was one of the very few who bothered tipping. A widow’s mite, if you will.
Lois didn’t become more than a name on a neighborhood roster to me until after her husband died. He was, shall we say, not very social. So she didn’t get out much. When she did she seemed very quiet. Not withdrawn so much reserved. Eventually she started showing up to choir practice. I applauded her courage, as it was clear she was more accustomed to the back row than up on the stand. She had some condition that made her hand–I only recall ever noticing it on one–shake. One more reason to hold back, but she stepped forward to worship through song. I didn’t know her well even then, but I was so proud of her.
I’m not sure when she stopped coming to choir. Or if it was her or I who disappeared first. I just realized that at some point that instead of in the choir seats, the only time I saw her at church was back in the far left corner, one of two places in our chapel where the widows and the widowers sit. Not so much to sit apart from the rest of us, but to endure together the loneliness that even the most gregarious of them must feel.
Even though my responsibilities require me to leave the meeting a few minutes early, I watch for them–particularly the sweet sisters–as I arrive and leave Sacrament Meeting. Ever ready with a hug, a pat on the shoulder or a gentle squeeze on the arm. I generally encountered Lois in the hall as she slowly made her way past the Primary room. Her sweet smile and gentle hello always warmed by heart. Notice that sparkle in her eyes? I am drawn to people who, despite the cares of this mortal world, manage to maintain the sparkle in their eyes.
I’m still watching for the obituary. I hope someone close to Lois will know and record her story. I don’t even know how old she was when she died. I just know I am grateful to have crossed paths with her. Sadly, I’m sure Lois is not the last person about whom I will have regrets.
I wish I’d have known her better.