Thursday, January 27, 2011

Candles for Anna

Yesterday was the birthday of a railroad widow I came to know. She's been dead a long time. She comes to mind every January 26. It's my way of honoring a friendship not sought out but inevitable as I spent time in her sweet presence.

Her name was Anna. She was in her 80s when we met. Her last name was Irish but I learned she was born of parents from central Europe. She was Bohemian she said. She shared the same Catholic faith with the young Irishman she fell in love with and whose name, along with his two sons, she bore.

In writing the church history she was a name given to me as being a font of information. I interviewed her at her apartment and then went back to see her as a friend.

She was kind and interesting. Hers had not been an easy life. Her disposition mirrored her peaceful acceptance of events. She made me so welcome on every visit.

She told about a railroad accident which her husband, on a rare free day from work, had had to respond to. This happened probably back in the 1920s. They were all set to leave on a picnic when the news came to him that he must get to the rail yard fast.

She was left with the picnic lunch, into which she’d put such care, and two disgruntled little boys who had their hearts as set on the outing as she had.

All of us go through a remarkable number of small disappointments. I could imagine her sitting there with the picnic basket and no place to go on a lovely summer day.

The train wreck needed her prayers and thoughts. She could quickly and naturally respond to the gravity of the situation. She put her disappointment as a small thing compared to that. But she must have wondered about life’s timing. The train mishap, as if on cue, happened at the very moment to prevent the anticipated picnic.

There were other memories she shared with me, such as the excitement every summer among the ladies of the church as they got ready for the annual festival.

Pushing their babies in strollers they visited the downtown shops selling tickets for raffles and promoting the fundraising efforts of the little parish church. She had a special friend who made the expeditions a lark. They must have relished the chance to be out for a cause, taking sensible advantage of this chance to pair up and be out on the town.

There was insane enjoyment in their volunteer work. It gave them reason to dress up a bit. It let them briefly be part of the civic scene. They visited with the store owners not as customers but as the sales people they were as they came to boost the parish festival.

Sadly, the friend died at a young age. Anna's story, vivid with animated recall, quietly ended.

In life we meet truly lovely people. Sometimes it’s for a short time. Sometimes it’s for a long while. We don’t know a lot of people a whole lifetime. Luckily they can stay with us through memory, such as my thoughts of Anna, and Anna's that day of her friend.

If living, Anna would be well over a hundred. The light of her memory is like her birthday candles. They shine with the fire of love that has eternal glow.

Ro Giencke - 2011

1 comment:

  1. What a nice story. It's so interesting to see a glimpse of events from another era.