"Have you ever felt as if you just didn't want to live anymore? Everything seemed to go wrong and you felt sort of mistreated and abused. Good luck just wasn't meant for you. Well that's the time to take a walk. It is amazing what walking can do to a depressed spirit. You just walk it away so slowly, ever so slowly. You don't realize it is disappearing until finally you discover it is gone. Yes, gone, and oh, life is so wonderful." --Vera Aleith Galbreath
In the mail on Friday we received a program from the memorial service for Vera Aleith Galbreath. I knew as soon as I saw the envelope what it was, and I was grateful. Grateful that someone had taken the time to let us know of Vera's passing. (Or, more likely, that Vera had arranged for this.)
Vera wasn't a relative. Not really a friend. Or a neighbor exactly. But she was a presence in our lives ever since we bought our first house.
It was a small house, just off of a busy street, about a mile or so from an urban lake. Both my husband and I would run down and around the lake a few times a week. Right past Vera's house.
One day my husband saw her working outside and asked if she needed any help. As it turned out, she needed someone to make a dump run for her, and so we did. And that was the beginning. My husband gave her his number and told her to give him a call whenever she needed help.
She didn't call very often, but when she did we'd head over and lift or haul or move whatever needed lifting or hauling or moving.
After I had my first baby she would cut out interesting articles for me about parenting and send them in the mail, or hand them to me if we ran into each other on the street, as we often did.
When we moved from the neighborhood we kept in touch mostly by Christmas card and she called upon us for help less and less often over the years.
Eventually we stopped sending Christmas cards (not just to her, but pretty much at all) and the time between our contacts became longer and longer.
Every once in awhile though we'd receive a letter or - even more rarely - a call just to check in. And sometimes we'd see her, out walking, as we drove through the old neighborhood.
Walking and walking and walking.
She walked everyday. She walked everywhere. She walked all the time.
Once we saw her at eleven o'clock at night walking back from the lake over the freeway overpass. It startled us. She was far too old to be out all alone walking at night we thought. So we stopped to ask her if she wanted a ride, but she just kept on walking. Now I know why.
Here's another quote from her essay on the benefits of walking: "As you walk [at night] don't think of fearful and frightening things. Have a sense that nothing wrong could exist in such a peaceful atmosphere and that no harm can ever touch you, for there is no such thing."
It doesn't surprise me that Vera knew this, knowing her, but it does surprise me a bit that she knew it as a young woman and that she lived it all her life. She didn't let age or darkness or distance scare her or keep her from doing what she wanted to do, what she knew she needed to do to be happy.
Goodbye Vera. We'll miss knowing that you are out there somewhere. Walking.