She was 98 years old, and full of feist. The widow of an Eastern Air Lines radio man, she'd lived in the same house here in Miami Springs for probably 60 years. She always sat in one of the back pews of the church. She was quite deaf these last several years. I would walk by her and say, "Hi, Sammie!," and over my shoulder I would hear her say, "Oh, the big lawyer's too proud to say hello to an old lady." I would turn around and say, "Sammie, I said hello, you just didn't hear me. And I don't see any old lady anyway." She would be smiling at me, and I thought to myself, "If you know she can't hear a thing, why did you just throw a hello at her and walk by? She may be right, you know." But that smile told me that she knew that I just forgot. Again.
She was good friends with my mom, and they played bridge. She only stopped driving three weeks ago. Snap. Another link to Mom, to Eastern Air Lines, to Dad, to my growing up in Miami Springs, to the past, goes. She joins that "cloud of witnesses" and gets her hearing back today. It's really Independence Day for her. Trade in that tired old body for a new and perfect one. Not bad.
She wouldn't have anyone live with her, nor would she move to Epworth. Her daughter lives three hours away, near Vero Beach. But Sammie let Corina help her, another lady at our church who is a CNA ("Certified Nurse's Aide"). Corina would come by several days a week, drive her a bit, fix her meals, help her bathe. just enough assistance to let her continue to live by herself.
This morning we were in the church parking lot, decorating Rick's pick-up truck for the church's "float" for the parade, when Liz, the church secretary, came out to tell me that Corina had been calling Sammie's house and not getting answer for the last 24 hours (and you get no answer when you call a deaf person). She had gone by her house this morning. The paper was still in the front yard, the door was locked, and Sammie didn't answer the door. Corina didn't have a key, but Liz had one in the church office and Corina was coming to the church. Would I go back with Corina and see what was going on? I knew that nothing was going on, because I was sure Sammie had gone on. Everybody knew that right away.
We got in, and Corina went into Sammie's bedroom, and she was under the covers and not breathing. We called 911, the police came, the EMT people. I went into Sammie's little kitchen, Thursday's paper was open to the crossword puzzle, and it was half completed, the pen laid down right beside it. Did Sammie get up in the middle of it, feeling poorly, and gone back to bed? My guess, anyway. The crossword puzzle was being solved answer after answer - not like I do them (when I do them). I fill in an answer here, then I stumble through several questions, and may come up with an answer there. Then I get frustrated and quit. Sammie was answering that crossword puzzle, answer by answer. She was sharp.
I really get frustrated with our little church. What exactly do we do for the Kingdom, I ask? We barely hold ourselves together. We've been barely holding ourselves together for years and years and years. Our "programs" limp along; the preacher is a good guy, but not near a spellbinder and not good at organization, just a man of God, loves his family, tough in a quiet way, but just not bringing them in, you know. But Carol and I have been there now since 1973, God led us there a couple of months before our baby died, and those people were there for us. And we've had the privilege to see the generations ahead of us move through middle age and beyond. And beyond, and find ourselves middle aged now, and young people coming up behind. It is a wonderful thing in rootless South Florida to have this community that the Holy Spirit has bound together so wonderfully. I'll see Sammie again. I'm happy here right now, but I'll see Sammie and the rest again. It will be great.