My friend Wilma died this past week. She was 94 years old. Wilma leaves a legacy of 3 talented, warm and loving children, their wonderful spouses, 4 very interesting grandchildren, loads of friends, great recipes, a bunch of chickens and a very large and productive garden. Many people can count the good children they leave behind, but I don’t know many who have so deeply touched so many in such a quiet and powerful way. It seems everyone has a Wilma story to share and the common thread is humanity. Wilma is the mother of one of my very dearest friends and I was fortunate to get to know Wilma over the years. I never expected to become friends with my friend’s mom, but somehow Wilma and I developed a warm and caring friendship, a friendship that now gets to live in my memories and heart.
I’ve always nursed a fantasy that I want to be like Wilma when I grow up. During her memorial service, I was surprised to find that so many other women, young and old, shared my fantasy. If I had lived in the same town with Wilma I would have realized that her reach was far and wide. Hard as I try I can never be like Wilma. My feeble attempts at being like Wilma include growing heirloom tomatoes and having chickens. Really though, that’s the surface expression of Wilma, she was greater than the things she did. Wilma was frank, opinionated and humble. She considered nonsense and crazy behavior an absolute waste of time, though she was always tolerant and respectful if someone did veer into nut-ball territory. She was smart, thoughtful, kind and caring. She was no saint and I think she would have been the first to admit it. But in so many ways her very unsaintly-ness is what made her human and wonderful. Wilma was curious and interested in the world. Her children observed that she became more so as she aged. What a great example Wilma was.
Even in death, Wilma showed the way. She died two days after sitting down with her daughter for an NPR StoryCorps interview. The evening of her death, she locked up her chickens for the night, walked up to the house, went to bed and died peacefully in her sleep. May we all go so gracefully.
Wilma is the north star when it comes to quality of life. Her loving and interesting family and friends from all walks are the result of Wilma doing it her way and somehow doing it just right. She had work that she loved and did every day. She lived in a place where the natural scenery is spectacular. Sitting at her table was always a treat. She quietly set up her life to have all of these things and made it look easy. It was years of sticking to it that made her life so remarkable and so good.
Creating a quality life is a daily habit. Wilma worked at it every day up until the end.