Just after moving to Lake Norman four years ago, Ethel and I met when I was riding my stationary bike near our road. As I would witness over the following years, she would appear on her morning walk, and she would stop long enough to chat. On that first morning, she asked me a few questions about my wife and me and why we moved to the lake-the usual inquires that a stranger would make. Satisfied, she said, “Well, you seem like good people,” and turned to continue her walk home.
Many walkers dot our road, but she was one of the earliest every day. If I were any bit past early, I would miss her, except on Thursday’s when she walked after going to the landfill with her week’s collection of pine cones dutifully gleaned from her well-tended lawn. Oh, and she walked after attending Sunday School and service at Williamson’s Chapel each Sunday, so I would often see her on my way home from our church. She would still be dressed in her “Sunday outfit.” And on Wednesday’s we always knew that she had already walked by because the Mooresville Tribune would be centered on the driveway, telling how she had rescued it from the ditch where the route person seems to enjoy placing it.
When she found out that we had three dogs, she began placing plastic, newspaper bags in our newspaper box. They were used for cleaning after dogs, and they were greatly appreciated. But most of all, the manner in which she packed the bags was telling of her character. Each bag was folded in her particular way and carefully placed in a larger one. She packaged them as if they were valuable merchandise. And they were because those simple, plastic bags were a reflection, as she saw it, on her. She would not just cram them into a larger bag because that would not witness to her spirit.
Over the brief time Ethel and I shared, she became much more than an elderly widow who lived on the lower end of our little road. Learning more and more of her life, I became aware that she, like so many of her era, are those who persevere. She was in her later eighties yesterday when she died, and she was a cancer survivor, but I learned not to be fooled by her slender frame that did not speak to her grit.
For the past weeks she has been house-bound, too ill to venture out on one of her walks. While I knew of her illness, I always held out the hope that somehow she would appear on our little road on one of her walks. This morning’s ride offered an absolute answer that no longer would Ethel come by on her morning walk and that our chats had ended.
But I hold to the thought that for these four short years, Ethel always saw us as “good people.” She certainly was.