I lost a friend this week. We’d never been out to lunch, or traded stories of how we met our husbands. We never knew each other’s favorite color or sent a card for a birthday. But we were friends, in our limited way. If I’d driven the kids’ school bus, we’d have been real friends. Had we been neighbors, we’d have been real friends. But if a friend simply is someone with whom you’re sympathetic, someone for whom you particularly wish happiness and good fortune, Mrs. Bell and I were friends.
As the pastor shrieked into the microphone about the good lord ushering Mrs. Bell to her final rest, and screamed about the goodness of the lord in giving us fifty-four years of Mrs. Bell, and then yelled at us to remember the glory of the lord in all we do, I kept thinking that Mrs. Bell would find it funny that pastor was obviously trying to wake her. “Lord? good LORD…keep it down there now Pastor, the rest of they’all aren’t deaf and I’m already saved, save your own vocal cords, mister Pastor!” I can hear her laughing now. That would’ve been her take on it, as it was in all things, in every struggle and disappointment. She handled the bruised lemons life gave her with sweet humor, self-deprecation, gratitude.
Her life and death were lessons to me. I’ll try now for some time to understand how a single woman can set so many pillars just so, and support so many to the depth and breadth that she did. I don’t mean money, for she had none. Rather, she arranged this niece, and that aunt, and this brother-in-law, and that friend, assigning expectations to each without any one the wiser, to build a foundation that will survive her. When she told one, ‘you be a good girl, now,’ that wasn’t a suggestion or warning, that was an order. I saw that today, what those good-hearted orders have wrought. I’d thought that she was the hub without which the family would falter and fail. I learned instead that she was a master chess player who has taught the pieces how to play well together.
In memory of Yvonne Bell, 12/23/59-11/20/14