The heart opens and then it closes…open your heart as much as you can because our whole life’s work is to keep opening the door to the heart. ~ Pema Chodren
A friendship with a wise elder offered me a doorway to open my heart. I met ninety-five year old Elsie when she requested visits from a hospice volunteer because she was lonely.
During the nine months of visiting Elsie at her assisted living facility, I enjoyed making her a cup of tea after her afternoon nap. A brilliant mind in a frail body, she was eager to talk about her travels, marriage, family, and owning a business. Every visit was like opening a treasure chest brimming with stories, and it was my privilege to listen with simple presence.
A different kind of beauty sparkled from her eyes. Bony thin with her gray hair pulled high on her head in a bun, her long fingernails splashed with peony pink nail polish. She was born in Korea where her parents served as Presbyterian medical missionaries. At age twelve she shepherded her two younger brothers on the train to boarding school in North Korea. Once an avid reader, she was too blind to read or watch television so she sang hymns at night to fall asleep and mentally reviewed her life.
On our last visit, Elsie talked about being a Navy WAVE before she married. Then she quoted some lines from a poem that she had memorized at Wilson College over seventy-five years ago about what comforts my sad heart. We parted saying I love you to each other and Elsie added ~ I think we are just about finished.
The next morning on Memorial Day 2011, Elsie breathed her final puff of air alone in her room.
Elsie’s friendship opened my heart to love and her legacy of amazing stories remain with me always.