I just realized that one of my favorite fictional characters in one of my favorite books might as well be twins with our neighbor who just passed away. If you knew VaLois, see if you agree:
(from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters)
I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed—
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six, I had lived enough, that is all.
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.
Recognize that gusto? Whenever we’d go visit VaLois, my husband and I would come away in awe. “Now that lady has a life,” we’d say. Like Lucinda Matlock, VaLois lived her life fully: she cooked; she sewed; she cleaned. She too had her dancing days and she sang. She sang when and what she wanted to sing and didn’t care what people thought. And she went places.
Up until a few months ago, she’d get in her car and go where she needed or wanted to go—the hairdressers, her beloved TOPS and to weddings and funerals. Sometimes she’d drive for many miles to visit friends and relatives.
Oh, she wasn’t perfect. She was opinionated and strong-willed probably to a fault. “We go the first Monday of the month in the morning first thing,” she let me know when I was assigned to visit teach with her, a church assignment. That’s how it was. So that’s what we did. But it ended up that I liked that set up. It simplified things. There were no questions and no endless phone calls. Her belief and testimony simplified her life and the lives of others as well. You could count on it. You could count on her to tell you what she believed and thought was right straight out and without apology.
I can’t remember how many grandchildren and great grandchildren VaLois had, but her life wasn’t easy. Like Lucinda Matlock, some of VaLois’s family members left this life before her. Unlike Lucinda, VaLois had to go on solo without her husband for a few years, but again she kept living with energy and strength. And maybe she didn’t make it to ninety-six, but I can just hear her say what Lucinda Matlock said, “It takes life to love life.” And VaLois did. You could tell she did. VaLois, I wish you “a sweet repose.”