Saturday, September 25, 2010
She was feared, bitter and alone, yet very well off as a widow of a multi-millionaire husband. He had always left her widowed even while he was with her. She lived the life of extreme appearance with people envying the money with no clue of the heartbreak it financed. Her nights were spent in the rainbow reflections of crystal chandeliers, drinking dark rum and smoking clove cigarettes with ease. No children were conceived and no animals wandered the halls of the mansion. She gave to no one and asked nothing above exceptionally grand service from her staff. Her worldly needs were met and she was too hardened to feel the rest.
A long night on a silk pillow yielded a dream, a harsh reminder to her future if she did not change her ways of bitter retorts and angry rampages. She had, in a darkened dream state, perished there in the core of her cold mansion. The funeral procession consisted of an imposing hearse that crept along gathering drops of rain, followed by an ominous black car with an emotionless parishioner at the wheel. There was not a single friend or family member to shed tears or speak words of sweet recognition. An elaborately detailed coffin shined against the rich black dirt. The only acknowledgment of her life came from the unknown parishioner who uttered the words “change now” with bland conveyance as he dropped a single white rose on cue. The sound of the rose hitting the coffin jarred her awake. She calmed her breathing and questioned her path.
The very next day she gave her first donation to charity. The week after, she dressed and stood unassumingly behind a food line dishing green beans to dirty faces, looking straight in the eyes of financial despair, this time without judgment.
She traveled out of her comfort zone to read and donate books to the children living on the bad side of town. She walked the dogs at the shelter, laughing at the mud on her outrageously priced sneakers she had never had occasion to wear before. She started to give her time and love freely to things she had never considered worthy before.
That night the procession in her dream grew by ten cars, the rose count was up to five.
A month later she heard talk of a mother with a daycare issue. Her son, aged 3, was autistic and as a single mother, she did not have the money to get him into proper care. He kept getting kicked out of establishments because of his anger issues. His mother was very close to losing her job and had no options for care available. She knew it sounded absurd, but possibly she could take care of him, at least for a while until proper care was located.
That night her procession grew to 30 cars, the rose count was 45.
When she met him she was fearful. The mother stood shaking and tearing up on her porch, leading her to believe this was going to be a battle she may not win. What place does an elderly woman with no children have taking a toddler in, especially with noted behavior issues? But his eyes read pain, and now that she had felt the gift that being charitable affords, she had no hesitation.
He was a messy boy with crystal blue eyes and a loss of contact. She started her days researching things that may help her with him. She became obsessed with giving this child every opportunity to be turned around and succeed, even with his disabilities. She began stumbling on different therapies and new learning techniques. Information about little known food reactions haunted her. She ascertained that common chemicals in food could cause certain children to show developmental and behavioral issues. She was able to provide the finest in dietary management and doctor care for the boy she had since fallen in love with. He improved daily and to every one's amazement went on to excel scholastically and socially.
In her time left, she fostered 8 more children just as she had done for the boy. All of the children had varied success levels, but each one was a valued relationship and adopted grandson or granddaughter to her. She was adored by each of the children's family members as well and raved about in the small town for her heart of gold.
As her health continued to fail she still gave freely of herself. She was visited often for her wisdom and charm and was known for trying to donate anonymously to her community, even though they all knew she was the benefactor.
While being interviewed by the local paper, she answered a question about why she had chosen to help so many after being secluded for so long. Her answer was simple and profound.
"It is never too late to reevaluate your place here in life and give back, I am blessed I did not run out of time before I was able to see that. A wealth of happiness will follow when you find your real net worth."
She stopped to take the hand of her interviewer and shared a knowing smile before continuing.
"And, it's NEVER found in the bank." She whispered while placing her hand over his heart and coyly winking.
She passed away the next week.
At her funeral there were 150 cars in a grand lighted procession, the number of roses left in her honor was too vast to count.