I Used To Be Pretty

Several years ago, a friend and I would have breakfast most every morning at a little joint known for their good breakfasts. As a rule, we sat at the same table, ordered the same thing from the same waitress: a young Vietnamese girl named Kim.

Because I really like to know people’s stories, I would ask Kim about hers. She came to the USA, as many have, to study. Her story was particularly interesting to me because she came from North Vietnam. Her father was a professor and taught for a time in Moscow.

Anyway… we went from the usual customer/waitperson conversation like, “Want the usual?” “Yes, please.” to a wonderful friendship. Kim came to our house where I tried to fix comfort food for her. I went to the Asian market with a recipe for pho that I found on the internet. Two elderly asian women, detecting my ignorance, helped me find the right ingredients and gave me instructions—none of which I could understand. Kim appreciated the effort; I think. She suggested that the next time we should have burgers, and we did.

The friendship grew. It grew to the point that when we collaborated with some other friends to start a house-church, Kim joined us. She asked if she could invite a few friends and I told her, yes, that’s what this is about.

So the next Sunday she showed up with friends. I was surprised; not that she had actually brought friends, but to see that her friends were an older, anomalous couple named Page and Dicksy. This was great because we were a pretty eccentric bunch anyway.  We were age diverse, culturally diverse, socio-economically diverse, politically diverse and so on.

As it turned out, all of these weird ingredients came together to make a pretty good stew. I didn’t know though, just how powerful this little tribe was until just lately.

I’ve watched them bring compassion, knowledge, expertise, gifts, talents, time, determination and sheer willpower to bear in a situation that desperately needed a solution.

I wish I could tell you all about Page and Dicksy, but for now, you need to know this: they were basically only-children and had no children of their own. For the most part, our little band of believers became their clan.

I wish I could tell you all about the players in this saga; people, that life and God have equipped in ways that have made them a Dream Team for times such as these.

Recently, Page passed away. Dicksy instantly became alone and essentially homeless.

(Oh, believe me it is a story.) The Dream Team stepped in, became Dicksy’s family, planned, funded and conducted Page’s funeral. They found Dicksy a home in a retirement living center and set her up very nicely indeed.

Photo by Molly Hennesy. Taken at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.

Photo by Molly Hennesy. Taken at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.

They continued to visit her and care for her which was no easy duty. Dicksy’s mother as it turns out, was apparently a colorful character in her own right, at one time married to a country music pioneer. On her deathbed she charged Dicksy with the responsibility of caring for all her worldly treasures. Dicksy took that very, very, very seriously. In her new little retirement home she continued to worry and fret about her stuff. Always the stuff.

Isn’t it funny how treasures become stuff, that becomes junk, that becomes crap, that becomes dust.

Following her husband’s death, a couple of things happened: one, Dicksey became a liberated woman; again (it was not the first time though, that she had become liberated. I’ve seen the pictures). For those of us that knew her, she always wore a wig, a very unflattering one. As soon as Page passed, she took off the wig and threw it away. “I never liked that old thing. Page wanted me to wear it because it made me look younger.”

I’m no expert on grief, but weirdly enough the guy that wrote the book on grief—literally, is the leader of our little band. As an observer, it seemed to me that for Dicksy there was a mix of grief, obsession over her stuff, and fretting, that all combined, bringing her to a sort of defeat.

My Amazing-Missus, who has truly been amazing by being herself in all of this, was with Dicksy when she had her 89th birthday, just a few days after Page’s death. By this time Dicksy had been moved to a rehabilitation unit. A physical therapist came to her room. Arlene told the young man, “Today is Miss Dicksy’s birthday.” “Happy Birthday,” he said.

Dicksy’s reply to him was, “I used to be pretty.” In a few days she was dead.

Her funeral is tomorrow. Once again the Dream Team is busy taking care of details, planning what will be a beautiful memorial service. Afterward, we will gather and remember Page and Dicksy. We’ll laugh at the craziness. And we’ll marvel at the Providence of God. And hopefully we will understand, a little more deeply, that to God: we are all still pretty.

Earlier I mentioned that our leader, Doug Manning literally wrote the book on grief. This is the book I’m speaking of. I highly recommend it.