"You know it's been much too long. Let's plan on getting together soon and catch up on all that's been going on in our lives."
"Sure. Give me a call."
Then we walk away knowing it will never really happen.
Millie always meant what she said.
"It's a date!" she would say, and I would reply "Mark it on your calendar."
What seems an eternity ago, I worked in a retirement center. Not one of those fancy assisted living places you see today, but the county rest home. It really looked more like a hospital than a home.
It may very well be where my real interest in people began. I met so many wonderful older folks there. I was in my early 20's, and their wisdom filled my spirit with hope.
Millie was a gem. I would see her several times a day, and every time I said, "I'll see you later!" she would reply, "It's a date!" Then she would grab her notebook and jot it down.
Millie kept those dates for the first few months she was there. But her time was limited and she knew it. As her body began to weaken, her spirit stayed very much alive. She would struggle to reach for her notebook and always refused to accept help.
But the day came when Millie could no longer grasp and hold the book or pen. I had just checked on her, and we talked about life and all the joys she had experienced. She never had a bad thing to say.
When I was about to leave I said, "Millie, I'll see you later."
There was no response.
I couldn't leave. I was so used to hearing her reply that it felt inappropriate for me to just walk out. So I walked closer to her bed and leaned over her.
"Millie, I'll see you later, okay?"
She smiled and reaching her right hand toward the bed table in front of her, she struggled to pick up the book.
"Do you want me to mark it down for you?" I asked.
She nodded her head.
I took her pen and opened up the notebook. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thumbed through and every single page had the same thing scribbled several times.
"Millie, I thought you were making dates all this time," I said to her.
She smiled and spoke with effort.
"Bob, I wasn't making dates. I was asking God to help me keep them," she said softly.
I wrote, "Please, God" in her book and laid it back on the table.
Every one of those notations were Millie's way of asking God to keep her around long enough to fulfill her promise.
Millie passed away quietly during the night. I rushed to her bedside to say my goodbyes before they took her away. Gathering her belongings, I picked up the notebook and paged through it one more time. There must have been a thousand notations in that book.
But Millie knew when it was time to go. The very last entry in her date book read "Thanks, God!"
As they covered her, I said, "Millie, I'll see you in Heaven."
I swear I heard her say, "It's a date!"
I replied, "Please, God."