Good morning. It’s a sad morning for me. Yesterday my cousin sent me a notice that one of the influential women in my life had died. I tried last Christmas to get in touch with her and was unsuccessful. It took several phone calls but I was finally able to obtain her telephone number. She had moved to an assisted living facility. I called her, but there was no answer. She was not in her room. I never had another opportunity to call her before leaving.
By the time I got back home to Texas, I had misplaced the phone number. I tried calling the facility, but due to privacy laws, they could no longer confirm that she lived there, even though I knew she did. They wouldn’t even take a message to tell her that I had called, because that would acknowledge that she was a resident there.
This woman was a guidance counselor in my high school. When I was having so many problems my senior year, she was there for me. We kept in touch since then for forty-five years. Every time I went back home, I always tried to call her. We would meet for lunch with an older distant cousin of mine who worked at the high school with her. She always made it very clear that she was interested in my life. I was able to talk with her about everything. I was so proud the day I was invited to her home so she could see my baby boy.
Three years ago she no longer answered her phone at her house. Last year I played detective and was determined to track her down. That’s how I got her number. It was disappointing that I was unable to talk with her, but then I was thinking about going home again this Christmas so I figured I’d be able to track her down again. Now it is too late.
Counselors in high school have very little time in most schools to spend time with individual students. She wore so many hats. She was the type of woman who never had a serene moment while at work. She hit the school running in the morning and was still full steam ahead when the students left at 3:30. I was fortunate that she made time to see me individually that year. It was only a couple of times in her office but it gave me hope that somebody cared during that troubling year. She even asked me for permission to call my father to discuss with him my concerns. I don’t know if it did any good or not because, as I have said several times, my father and I really didn’t communicate. But at least she was willing to become involved, and she showed concern for what I was going through.
She had only turned forty when she started working with me. At that time of course she was ancient. Now she no longer seemed that much older than I. I never knew her age until I read her obituary this morning.
She tired out everybody who knew her. She was a tiny woman, but mighty. She epitomized the ideal of caring and giving to others. She belonged to ten different community organizations and I’m sure she was much more than just a name on a list. She was one to become involved. She thrived on involvement. Once she retired from public school, she started volunteering as a counselor at the Catholic high schools in town. It was a whole new experience for her. She was involved in Girl Scouting for most the time I knew her. She earned the Girl Scout Thanks Badge. This award is given only once to recognize exceptional service that benefits the total council or the entire Girl Scout movement. She was given the Tom Connor Award from the Chamber of Commerce. This award goes to a community volunteer who has worked diligently to make a difference in the community. One last award given to her was the J C Penny Golden Rule Award.
Some think of the Golden Rule Award as the community service equivalent to the Pulitzer or Academy Award. Named after James Cash Penney’s first store (Golden Rule Store, opened in 1902), the Award program began in 1982. The Golden Rule Award recognizes that the good accomplished by nonprofit organizations would not be possible without caring volunteers. The program rewards individual volunteer efforts through recognition, and helps set an example to other community members.
When I was home last year I was told that she almost died but I wasn’t told when. She related that she saw her beloved husband, Joseph, waiting for her in the light, and she was overjoyed at seeing him again. That was one of the first times I heard that she was angry, although I would not be surprised if she used anger in her quest to make a better world. At that time she was ready to go. It would not diminish my opinion of her by any means. She had very high standards for herself and appreciated those who rose to her level. She couldn’t understand why she was jerked back to earth where she lasted I guess at least two to three more years.
That was my friend, Clara. She was one of those shining beacons in the community who believed in doing rather than just talking about it. To my knowledge, she never let any of her accomplishments make her head swell. I would not be surprised to hear she was still serving others when she died.
I was fortunate to have known her. The angels will be delighted that she has come home. God bless you, Clara. I know S/He is happy to see you close up and personal just like you kept God in your heart all these years. Good bye, Clara. Namaste. Attic Annie