By Jodie Lynn
It was pouring down rain and my regular ride to school did not show up. Like many high school students, I car-pooled with other like-minded friends. My parents had already left for work and there was no one else to call.
Beginning to literally sob, I didn't even notice the car when it pulled up to the curb. "Hey, do you need a ride to school," asked the lady with the funny looking hat and neatly placed hairnet.
A perplexed and bewildered expression must have shown on my face as I peered into the car. "Oh, I work in the cafeteria," she said with a large smile.
"Oh, sure, now I recognize you," I replied, followed by a huge sigh of relief.
From that day on, Betsy Crumfield became one of my best friends. I found out that she lived right around the corner from me.
Betsy was a retired school nurse who decided to fill in one day for one of her friends who worked in the cafeteria and afterwards was asked to join the staff. She was short, round and a well-fed older woman who said she just couldn't get enough of the warm, yet crazy personalities of nutty high school kids.
To my amazement, we had a lot in common. My mom was a nurse and Betsy had just retired from nursing only a mere two years earlier. She was such a caring person that every morning she would come by the same corner at the same time making sure I had a ride to school.
Since both of my parents worked outside the home, it left me with a ton of time on my hands in an empty, lonely house and Betsy frequently brought snacks and treats to share. Among other things, Betsy loved to cook in her updated and well-lit kitchen at home and not only did it well, but also daily. As with any member of the medical society, she too tried to always make sure the snacks were healthy -- just like my mom.
Betsy not only became a friend but also a great sounding board, especially for a 16-year-old to blurt out feelings, as we so often need to do. There were all sorts of things that might never be discussed with one's parents and even best friends -- but with Betsy, I knew the discussions would stay put and that judgment would never surface, and I was right. Just to have someone who truly listened and never criticize, was a huge emotional benefit.
Her patience and kind words were amazingly comforting and the knowledge and advice she kindly suggested seemed to always work. For example, when the position for 10th Grade Representative was posted, she made observations that there seemed to be very few girls who ran and none that ever won. Her love for writing inspired me to step up to the plate and place my name into the ring; write a speech and follow through with the whole voting/election process. As our friendship grew, her smile became larger than life (which I thought was impossible) and she too seemed to adhere to her new-found friend.
On a cold blustery morning, one day before Thanksgiving, Betsy was supposed to bring over her "famous" Pumpkin Cheesecake, as a pre-holiday gift to my family...she did not show up. Upon calling her house, there was no answer, which struck me as quite odd. Without any readily available transportation, I decided to walk over to her house. Fighting the buckets of rain and the bone chilling winds, I turned the corner just in time to see someone pulling away from her driveway, but before doing so, he stuck something on the door. As the front of her tiny house became clearer, I noticed it was extremely dark, as there were no lights inside. Upon approaching the freshly painted porch, I stumbled over a wreath and found myself face to face with the note that the strong winds had quickly detached from the door. It said, "Betsy died peacefully last night. The funeral will be...............," - that's as far as I got before disbelief and a giant wave of sadness filled my heart. Feeling shocked, angry and betrayed, I somehow found my way back home wiping tears away with my gloves. It was strange, I met her on a rainy cold day and lost her on a similar one.
Becoming accustomed to my down in the dump slump, and not being able to deal with it any longer, one morning, my mom reminded me of the many wonderful aspirations Betsy had left behind. Mom was right - and feelings of gladness and respect once again filled my heart with fond memories of what little time Betsy and I had experienced.
As I look back, there may have been other unsung heroes in my life but none with such a profound impact as the cafeteria lady. Who would have thought that a 65-year-old woman would become a best friend to a 16-year-old? She was there when I needed her and always looked out for me at school providing a little extra skip in my step and a "can-do-anything" attitude.
Best of all, she lifted my spirit and filled my heart with great passion to help others, just like she had done for me. Remembering and cherishing her ever-happy personality, I became determined to carry out the future she had carefully etched in my young impressive mind -- so I did. (I think all 16-year-olds need a 65-year-old friend!)
This year, through the hustle, bustles and sometimes hectic schedules of the Holidays, while we celebrate and eat wonderful food with our family and friends, take a step back and reminisce about your own Unsung Heroes. Reflect on the many uplifting inspirational blessings that they provided your soul. Take a silent moment to garnish the felicity of their true meaning in your life.
Oh, by the way, I did not ace the election spot for the 10th Grade Representative, but did so for each year after that . . . Betsy would have been so proud!
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