Mira , A short story about loss
Elsie tightened her scarf around her neck as she looked outside at the snow flurrying around the bare trees. She had turned sixty-two last spring, and it seemed that since then, even her bones got cold. She buttoned up her coat, picked up her purse and stood gazing out the front door while she mentally tried to prepare herself for the blast of cold air that was about to violate her entire body.
The weatherman had said that the temperature would reach a high of about fourteen degrees today, but the chill factor would bring it closer to zero. Just thinking about it made Elsie shiver.
On days like this, she wished she knew how to drive, but cars made her nervous. She had let her husband, Bill, chauffeur her around all those years. Bill had died almost ten years ago, and Elsie had lived alone ever since. Sometimes it was hard to believe that so many years had passed. There were times even now that Elsie would stop and wait for a familiar answer or action from her loving husband, only to have to remind herself that he was gone.
Her only son, Michael, had taken his young bride and moved to California more than twenty years ago, after his graduation from college. He now had two grown children of his own. After his father died, he had pleaded with her time and again to move west and live with his family-or at least live in the same city-but Elsie wouldn't leave the home where she had spent so many years. Michael finally gave up asking and for the moment seemed content just to call her once a week. Also, he and his family would fly to see her as often as they could.
The first year after Bill died had been the hardest. At first, she had spent most of her time curled up in bed, crying-wishing that she too would die. Her son stayed on, trying to coax her to move to California, then. She finally realized that Michael must return to his family, so she had put on the bravest front that any person could, and he reluctantly went home.
At first, Elsie's friends called and stopped by often. They even tried to include her in the events that normally she and Bill would have attended together. But as time went by, and after many refusals from Elsie, they stopped trying. Eventually, Elsie drifted away into a lonely, private, little world of her own. Loneliness can be a matter of choice, and for Elsie, it was a very secure place to be.
Then came Mira. It had been almost six years ago that Elsie met Mira. It was a Sunday morning, one early spring day. As Elsie sat in church, she noticed this small, olive-skinned woman in the pew in front of her. Mira weighed about 105 pounds, and, as Mira liked to say, she was 5 feet 3 inches on her "tall" days. On that particular morning, she was elegantly dressed in black, with her silver-streaked hair wrapped in a coil in the back. When church ended, Mira stayed, kneeling in her pew with a rosary in her hands.
It was drizzling outside when Elsie started her short walk home. After only a block, the rain started to come down harder. Her umbrella kept most of Elsie dry, but her leather pumps were soon soaked, and she could feel the dampness on the hemline of her dress. Just then she heard a horn sound and turned to see Mira waving frantically for Elsie to get in her ear. Elsie opened the door and slid into the warm seat, quickly shutting out the rain before she said anything. "Thank you. I was hoping it wouldn't rain until alter I got home, but I didn't make it." She smiled warmly. "I live at 728 Oak Street. Just turn left on Parkway and it's the first right."
Mira put her car in drive and pulled out onto the road. "I see you at Saint Josephs almost every week and sometimes walking home. You always make me wish I had the energy to walk to church. I'm Mira Lacher."
Elsie laughed. "I don't drive. Fortunately, I live so close. I'm Elsie McCarthy." Mira pulled into Elsie's driveway· “Thank you again. Would you like to come in and have some coffee?"
Mira said she would love to, and that was the day their friendship began.
Together they sat at Elsie's kitchen table, sipping hot coffee and enjoying Elsie's homemade blueberry muffins while they talked for hours. Mira told Elsie she was born Claudmira Evelene Ramondelli. She came to America when she was only two years old, with her mama and papa and her three brothers, Frederick, Antonio and Geno (Eugene), then only nine months old. Her mother spoke only Italian, and her father spoke very broken English. Although Mira went to school in America, she still had a strong accent and often spoke rapid Italian when she was excited. She had married young, to a man named Charles Lacher, and raised three children-a son, Eugene (after her brother), and two daughters, Maria and Rosa. Her children were all married now, and Mira had ten grandchildren.
Mira listened attentively as Elsie told about her family, her life and the death of her husband. Mira told her that she had lost her Charles, too, nine years ago.
Mira took Elsie's hand in hers and said, "It's not good to be alone. You come and eat with me tonight and meet my family. I'll come and pick you up at six.” Mira left with the promise that Elsie would come.
Mira and Elsie rapidly became best friends, and though Mira was five years older than Elsie, she didn't look any older than her friend. But she did seem so much wiser at times that Elsie often felt like a child.
Elsie recalled the day that Mira turned her life around. She and Mira had decided to visit the cemetery where Bill and Charles were buried. It was Father's Day, and they had known each other only a few months. When they got to Bill's grave, Elsie knelt down and started to cry. After a long while, she felt Mira's hand on her shoulder. Without looking up, she listened to Mira's soft and comforting voice.
"It's good to mourn over the loss of someone we love. It heals us. It helps us to appreciate the good when it is here. But the time must come, my caro amico that we must let go of that pain and go on. It's time for you to let go and to remember the good times."
"I know," Elsie said softly. "Sometimes I just get so angry--angry at Bill for leaving; angry at God for taking him. I guess I always thought we would go together." Elsie was looking at her husband's headstone as she talked.
Mira knelt down and wrapped her frail arms around her friend "We don't know why things happen the way they do. We can spend the rest of our lives looking for answers and never finding them, or we can stop looking and start living again."
They stayed there for a long while, wrapped in each other's arms, comforting each other, lost in the memories of a long-ago. When Elsie finally looked at Mira her tears had been replaced by a mischievous smile. "Let's go get some ice cream."
Elsie did let go of the pain and the anger that day. It started gradually, but soon she was able to laugh and joke about the good times she had shared with her husband. She became a part of the Ramondelli-Lacher family. She was introduced to Italian foods and customs, and for the first time in a very long while she was happy. Mira's grandchildren called her their American grandmother, and since Mira was called "Nona”, Elsie became "Grandmother El”. When Elsie's family came to visit her, they were welcomed too. For the first time since his father died, when Michael went home, he didn't worry about his mother staying behind.
The sound of a horn blowing brought Elsie back to the present. It was Geno coming to take her to the cemetery. Mira had been dead almost six months now. Her heart had just stopped one evening when they were sitting at Elsie's kitchen table with Geno, telling stories and laughing. Mira had just laid her head down on the table as if she were sleeping.
Elsie took one more look at the snow whipping around the bare trees and opened the door. The bitter-cold wind brushed the tear off her cheek as she looked up at the heavens and smiled, knowing Mira was watching. It was time to go and say goodbye to a friend.
Dealing with Loss
© 2013 Rebecca Shepherd Thomas