Apr 18, 2019
“Miss K” was an exercise in the incongruous. She couldn’t have weighed much more than a spring robin, but she rode a Harley Davidson. I still remember her roaring – at a chug, mind you – down the long driveway of my childhood on her “hog.” It was something akin to a noodle of spaghetti riding in on a bull. Though meek in demeanor and dimension, her voice was husky and deep and always a little surprising emanating from her mild face.
Miss K was the science teacher for most of my older siblings and over the years became a close friend to my mother. In that time, my mother came to understand that Miss’s childhood was marked by a terrible cruelty, and in the aftermath of this abuse, she was prone to depression and sometimes it would grip her without mercy. During these bouts, she would call my mom, who would listen to her for an hour or two. Occasionally, Miss K would come to stay with us. And though she was always tired, she never seemed able to sleep and I would wake in the middle of the night to hear her poking around in our kitchen.
Toward the end of her life, Miss K had found peace, good friends, a community that loved her in all of her quirkiness. There was a certain lifting in her spirit that was palpable. She remained close to my mother, recounting that those long, difficult phone calls with my mom probably saved her life; that my mother, by simply listening had helped her more than she could say.
Miss K was scheduled to stay for a few days over the New Year, but when my parents fell ill with colds, she postponed her trip and came a few weeks later instead. She was greeted warmly by my older brother, who just happened to be at my parents. A former student, he would become an electrical engineer years after he spent time in Miss K’s classroom, and I wonder if her way of teaching science might not have made a good impression on him as a boy. He helped her to carry in her many bags – Miss K never traveled light – and after settling in, she remarked, “I just love staying here.”
Not long after, she sat down to say a rosary with my parents and then have dinner. And some time in the next hour, Miss K had a massive stroke. She lost consciousness as my parents, held her and helped her to the floor where they covered her with a blanket and called 911. The paramedics asked my mother to go through her things, looking for any medicines she might be taking, and in every pocket and crook and cranny, my mom found prayer cards, novenas, and all of that Catholic DNA that marks a faith-filled life. Miss K died peacefully a few days later at a local hospital surrounded by those who loved her the most.