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The Weight and Worth of Words

My beautiful mother, known as “Kitty,” was born and raised in Philadelphia, the oldest child of six. Mother loved clothes and she dressed in the best at all times. After she wore a dress, she would press it before putting it back in the closet. Mother had a wonderful job, so she could afford a “champagne taste” as many told her, and of course, she was the envy of her sisters. Her younger sister Edith would watch Mother leave for work and would sneak upstairs and help herself to the closet. The day came when Mother caught Edith wearing her prize dress. In anger Mother said some horrible, mean things. It just so happened that Edith had wanted to wear that dress to her own bridal shower that very night. But enraged, Mother yelled, “I will not be there!” That evening, Edith and her fiance borrowed an egg truck, with no windows and long benches on either side, to drive the wedding party to the shower. Witnesses said the truck must have stalled on the train tracks because they saw Edith’s intended jump out of the driver’s side and lift the hood. In the dark, there came a sudden, long whistle as the train bore down on them.

The next day, the tragic story was on the front page of the local paper. How Mother suffered, remembering those hateful last words. Sometimes we react too quickly, thinking first about how we are affected, not realizing why a person might do something or act a certain way. This is something I’ve learned in my eight decades of life: Stop and listen. Then stop again. Aunt Edith probably wanted to be more like her sister. She wanted to wear that dress to feel special and beautiful. That is how she saw Mother.

Every person deserves the time you take to consider the whats and whys. This is a way of showing respect. As a new volunteer at A Woman’s Place (AWP), I am pleased to see that one of the core values is Respect. Because of what happened with Aunt Edith, Mother instilled in us the weight of our goodbyes. “Do not leave this house angry. Do not leave without a hug,” she’d remind us. Now, at 86, I also know how important it is to use encouraging words when you think of them. Do you appreciate the kindness of a neighbor? Say so. Do you admire the courage it took a friend to make a change or stand up for a belief? Say so. I don’t want to make this sad, but from my vantage point, I urge you to remember: One never knows when the train whistle will sound. Time is precious and the years pass quickly.

AUGUST 21ST IS  SENIOR CITIZENS DAY – HUG A SENIOR!


Respect: A Woman’s Place is considerate and honors the worth and dignity of all beings and resources.”*
*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place

Patsy Hall
Volunteer

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