Every so often you see her walking down the street with her fold-up pushcart, heading toward the grocery store. For the most part she is invisible to the world. She has become a part of the scenery. She goes about her daily routines, asking for nothing from the world. And the world responds by doing nothing for her.
The truth is she could die tomorrow and you most likely wouldn't even miss her.
"They're selling that old house down the street. You know, where that old lady lived."
"I saw a sign at the grocery store. They're having a tag sale. I bet there's some great old stuff in there. Let's make a point to go Saturday. We'll get there early for some real bargains."
By the end of that Saturday, when the last piece of her life has been sold, she will be but a memory for someone. Her worth to whatever family members laid claim to her property will be in dollars and cents. She was just passing through this life, biding her time.
"How sad," you say to yourself.
How sad indeed. Sad that you never got to know her.
If you had taken the time to say hello one day you would have been blessed. Perhaps walking the down the street one early summer's eve, you would have seen her sitting on the old oak rocking chair you got at a bargain price the day they auctioned off her life. That chair was hand-made by her father. He came to America with the skill of a craftsman and raised her and her siblings with his bare hands. Her momma sat in that chair and breast-fed every one of them. She made their clothes, baked bread every day, and tended to a large garden that they depended on for fresh vegetables.
This mysterious old lady was married once for what would have been a lifetime for most of us. Her husband died years ago, but not before he made the last payment on the home you rummaged through on Saturday.
Children? They had seven kids and raised them on hand-me-downs and fresh garden vegetables. Two died at an early age, one in a car accident when he was just a teen. The others went on to college and scattered across the U.S. in search of big dollars, big homes, and little respect for who gave them life and everything they had today.
Except for a few photographs that they split among themselves as tokens of the "good old days," they each received their portion of the estate and went on with their lives.
Somewhere in her possessions they found an envelope filled with cash. On it were written the words, "I couldn't spend your money." For they would send her checks to pay someone to cut the grass and shovel the sidewalk.
She did it herself.
She had very few friends to visit her. The ones still around were tucked away in nursing homes she couldn't get to visit.
Yes, how sad it is that you didn't take the time to say hello. You would have met an honest-to-goodness angel here on earth.
I am guilty, too. You see, I wouldn't have met her either, except one day while driving past her house I blew a tire and pulled by the side of the road. While I was struggling with the spare, she came out and offered me a glass of homemade iced tea. I sat on her steps as she rocked in that chair and told me a lifetime of stories. She talked so long she apologized, for she rarely got visitors. I assured her that she need not apologize at all. I was the one who was sorry that I had never stopped by sooner.
"You are an angel," I told her.
In her sweet, gentle voice, she said, "We are each other's angels. We meet when it is time."
She died the other day, and I sat on her front porch and watched her life fall apart.
The neighbors got some real bargains that day. But I found a treasure.