Every Saturday I spent the day with a dear old neighbor who lived down the street from
me. Her name was Gladys, and she was ninety eight years young. She lived by herself up until last year, when her son decided
to put her in a nursing home. His new job kept him very busy and he had to travel a lot, so he felt she’d be safer where
she could be watched, just in case.
One of the things Gladys loved to do was sit and read. Oftentimes when I came to visit her I’d usually find
her sitting on the outdoor bench, under the large oak tree. Glasses on the tip of her nose, immersed in her favorite classic
novel that she read at least a hundred times already. One day I asked her why she kept re- reading that same book over and
over again, and she replied “Every time I read the words on these pages I see something I never saw before. And in all
honesty, they just don’t write books like this any more.”
I loved spending time with Gladys because she was filled with such warmth, kindness and this old world wisdom and
common sense that you seldomly heard, very much like her favorite book.
The last time I saw her was on our weekly Saturday visit. It was a cool crisp fall day, and there she was sitting
on her favorite bench, wrapped in her handmade woolen shawl, and the matching beret. I just stopped a moment to look at the
picture she made, and I smiled. Her shawl kind of matched the fall colors of the tree she sat under. As I moved closer I noticed
that her book layed opened on her lap, her glasses had slipped off her nose and were sitting beside her, and in the middle
of the page was a dried up leaf that had fallen from the tree above.
My breath caught in my throat, and I reached out to touch her, calling out her name. But I knew there would be no
reply, for my Gladys was no longer there. Sitting down beside her I took her now cold hand and held it in mine. As tears ran
down my face, I told her how much I loved her and what her friendship meant to me. I don’t know how long I sat with
Gladys, but a nurse seemed to have come out of nowhere, and taking one look at the situation called on her phone to bring
down a gurney. The nurse placed a warm hand on my shoulder to let me know it was time to move her patient, so I released
her hand and moved out of the way. I watched as the small group of hospital personnel took my dear sweet friend back into
the nursing home, and with a heavy heart I turned and walked away.
A week after Gladys’s funeral there was a knock on my door. Looking through the little window I saw her son
standing on the other side with a package in his hand. Very surprised to see him I opened the door and invited him in. Politely
declining, he just handed me a package and said “I think mom would have liked you to have this”. And before I
could utter a word he turned and walked away. Going back inside I sat on the couch and slowly opened the brown paper wrapping.
There inside was Gladys’s favorite book. Clutching it to my chest, I let let my tears fall, partly from sorrow, partly
from joy, but mostly from gratitude. My life was so blessed to have her in it, and now I had a piece of her that I could still
touch and feel. Running my fingers over the well worn cover I closed my eyes and I could see all the times she lovingly held
this book, read the words over and over, finding secrets and nuances no one else could see. Now it was mine to do the very
same. And opening the book, I snuggled into the corner of my couch, and I began to read..
I Feel Everything