Losing a neighbor

My neighbor Pat will likely die within days. An elegant willowy woman in her nineties, she survived a hip replacement last year together with months of therapy. Her daughter calls her a “woman of steel,” determined to wrench out of life every bit of joy and wisdom.

While we weren’t close, we were neighborly–a blessing you can’t always count on when you move into a new place. We invited her and a mutual friend in her late 80′s to dinner one night. She in turn invited us back, introducing us to her friends–bridge partners, social acquaintances, and lovers of fine china, sterling tableware, fresh flowers and food fit for such a gathering of ladies.

Pat walked our hallway–we were at one end and she was at the other–for exercise. “Don’t be surprised if you see me outside your door,” she chuckled one day. “I’m just out for a stroll.”

Often I would see her in the lobby, dressed as you might for a fancy luncheon. Sometimes that’s where she was headed. At other times, she was going to her children’s for dinner. Her always beautiful appearance prompted me to reflect on my own aging. Will I be this engaged in life at her age? I hope so.

Pat’s passing will be a loss. The hallway and the apartment at the other end will be empty of her warmth, strength and aliveness. For a time, I’ll focus on that. Eventually, I’ll move on, grateful for the model she provided of graceful living–and dying.


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