Rita Marie’s Footprint on the World

“In first realizing her time was so limited, she wondered ‘what footprint’ she had left on the world, as if regrettable she hadn’t left a more prominent one. Oh my goodness, Marie. How do I even try to tell you …”

A good, healthy, unexpected cry is something I forget is there. It’s a reminder that I do still feel and that there are still people worth feeling for. As if a complete contradiction of itself, spur of the moment crying makes me feel better, softens a blow, cleanses my heart’s sadness into something fresh and new again.

cry1Yesterday’s cry was for a lady, who, upon meeting her, I knew is a dear and kind human being. She spoke of similar values as I and without knowing it or having the slightest idea herself, she affirmed my sanity with remarkably gracious insights. I really like who she is as a person so that meant it was okay to like ‘me.’ Liking oneself can be a more difficult task than many realize. She quickly became very special to me and it was obvious she is a special person to all those she knows.

Her name is Rita Marie and she’ll tell you with a cheerful, toothy smile how people just call her one or the other and she answers to either. So I call her Marie.

When I met Marie in the beautiful weather of a few short months ago she was recovering from brain cancer surgery and using a walker, determined to make the not-so-short trip to our mailboxes. That walk is a bit too long even for me but she did it. She grew concerned that she’d forgotten her hat to cover its scar, not in vanity but thinking the scar might be unpleasant for others.

Being about the same age and having cancer recovery in common, we chatted for a long time. I saw clearly all of the nuances we had in common, from overstocking toilet paper and needing our own space to surviving chemo. There was always a family member staying with Marie by then and she is blessed with a large, loving one.

Still taking chemo, every time she could get out when I walked my new pup she’d have a dog treat in hand to win her over. I was surprised how my timid pup, otherwise freakishly shy of strangers (even those bearing treats), took right to Marie. Every time we walk outside now, like an overly intrusive neighbor, the first thing my pup does is check out Marie’s place, looking into windows for activity. Her ears perk up as if to say, “What’s going on in there, what’s Marie doing without us, wanna go [pant pant] wanna go?”

A few weeks ago Marie took a downturn, sleeping inordinately with cognitive difficulty, struggling to collect her thoughts and find her words. Her brain cancer is growing, they’ve stopped treatments and she’s said to have three days to three weeks to live. Even with all of this, this lady exemplifies her unique specialness. She remains a glowing testament to loving life, to loving family and to the tenacity of just being a loving, good person. That’s not easy for most people in her condition, but it comes naturally for Marie. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Marie’s large family is with her now and she receives many visitors. Last evening they invited me in for dinner and there is nothing warmer than being among a family that’s so loving to one another and gathered for the sake of such a special lady. Marie’s two sisters tend to her every need and I presume to everyone else who comes and goes, making it possible for so many people to come and go. Marie’s daughter,footprint2 son and niece and their spouses add a spicy flavor of youth and laughter to the mix. I was so honored to meet her family and to be able to be a part of them.

Marie is in bed most of the time now. She sleeps so much they don’t hesitate to wake her because she goes right back to sleep again. I am absolutely amazed by the familiar, cheerful, broad smile that is Marie’s face staring back every time they do wake her. She’s too weak to keep her eyes open so she’ll sit wearing varying degrees of her genuine smile, often finding short phrases to let you know she hears what’s going on and she is taking part. Then she’s back to dozing until you engage her again and she responds not missing a beat until there’s another lull.

My pup jumped on Marie’s bed and gently licked her hands. They say animals sense these circumstances and that was an unusual thing for her to do, in such a crowd of strangers and with so much going on. I believe she was returning Marie’s love by extending her own.

I don’t recall in recent years laughing so much as I did last night with Marie, Linda & Rose her sisters, her daughter & her niece (and whoever else wandered in & out). All of us ladies gathered by Marie’s bedside in a jovial, clucking hen party that gapped Baby Boomer, GenX and Millenials as if we were all just giggling teenagers again on another sleepover.

We asked Marie silly questions about her Halloween costume and high school crushes and told stories of going into labor with our children. She broke into audible chuckles several times at jokes we made or stories we told and, hand to the air, I could’ve sworn she had the biggest laugh over my slightly off-color one. When it was time to go, she offered, with her eyes still closed but that special alive Marie-smile on her face, “I had fun tonight.”

footprint1As did I, Marie. As did I. You warm my heart so.

Marie said to me not long ago, in first realizing her time was so limited, she wondered “what footprint” she had left on the world, as if regrettable she hadn’t left a more prominent one. Oh my goodness, Marie. How do I even try to tell you the unique specialness that you are is so much more than many of us know how to give or have the gift to leave. I’ve only known you a few months and you’ve influenced my life in more touching and tender ways than some of my own family in entire lifetimes. Your footprint has an indelible place in my heart. As long as we live, you live.

That’s one doosey of a footprint, Marie, times all of the people your life has touched over its many years. I hope I can leave just one person behind who will say as much about me. My world is a considerably better place simply because you and your smile and your sense of humor and your family and your kind ways were in it. There can be no better footprint to leave than that.

The tears I cry are not for you, Marie … they are for my loss and the world’s loss of such a uniquely delightful, joyful and graciously compassionate woman. God rest your soul in a seat on high near Him, where you are comforted and content in wait for us. I don’t know if God allows hen parties the likes of what we just had, but knowing God’s perfect ways I know that party will be an even better one.


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