Our dear friend Lallie died Wednesday. Her services were yesterday. And I am still in the unbelieving stage of grief. She just can't possibly be gone, so vibrant and active a woman, in love with life and all its fascinating facets. Just - gone. Not possible. A brilliant comet streaked across the sky,lighting our lives, and we are still staring at the sky, wishing it back.
She was only ill about a month. She was only sixty-eight. She was only in the middle of moving from North Carolina to Huntsville, her husband retiring from teaching at a university there, one son's family in Huntsville, the other nearby in Birmingham. A little over a year ago, our son got a Facebook message from her, asking if he was the same Mack Allison who had lived in Birmingham many years ago. Our son replied that it was his father she'd be looking for.
Mack had met Lallie in the fall of 1967, just two months after he had met me. He worked with her at a branch library in the Five Points area of Birmingham. She was a married twenty-five year old mother of two children, working on her Master's degree in math. She was tall, with glossy, black, always-touseled hair. She had an exotic look, big heavy-lidded eyes and a mouth and nose that reminded me of Cher - or a giraffe, in a lovely way.
We'd go over to her house and there was always something going on. She had a huge black dog named Zephyr with a coffee-table-sweeping tail, and later smokey grey cats with Egyptian names. Her decor was exotic in an older house with "character", as they say.
But it was the conversation that kept us coming back. Lallie was interested in everything and knowledgeable about many things. She didn't treat us like kids; she listened and sparred with us verbally, challenging us to think, but never treating us as though we were callow.
When we eloped to the courthouse at 20 and 22, Lallie was happy for us,(my parents weren't, hence the elopement) and as we left her house, she threw rice over our heads. If rice is a symbol of good luck, it worked - we have been married thirty-eight years.
We lost touch with her not long after we married. We moved to Huntsville and withing a year joined the Army together. When I retired in '96,(he'd gotten out much earlier), we had lived at Fort Campbell, Ky, twice, Germany three times for a total of ten years, Fort Dix once and finally landed back in Huntsville at Redstone Arsenal. Meanwhile Lallie had divorced her first husband, Bob Lott, raised her boys, worked in computers and math, and had married Bill Campbell, moving to North Carolina with him where he taught math.
When she found us, we were delighted that she and Bill were moving to Huntsville. There followed wonderful dinners at their house or ours, trips to bead shops for her and I, soaks in their hot tub, and hours of conversation. We seemed to take up where we had left off decades ago. Except, of course, that we all had grey hair and grown children and grandchildren. Even so, I really thought we had a good decade or so to look forward to.
When she became ill, she fussed with the doctors in her characteristic way, and we thought it was a temporary setback. She had allergies and had had a stroke before, and was taking Coumadin and a few other things. But the energy of the woman was amazing. She was making a quilt, researching her genealogy, doing some beading, decorating their house, designing the garden and planting it, fixing her computer, and - well, probably a few dozen other things that I didn't know about.
Gradually it dawned on me that things were not getting better for her. Still not wishing to believe it, I began to pray for a miracle for her healing, and wrote this poem. It became a poem of any woman to her dear friend. Here it is:
You can't die today
The sky is too blue.
Sun slants in to warm your bed,
Fiery leaves brush your window -
You cannot grow cold.
You can't die tomorrow, either.
It's Halloween, your granddaughter
Wears the princess gown you made, you
Have to see that.
You can't die the next day -
All Saints' Day? I think not!
You can't die the day after that,
We have the craft show, you and I.
And you can't die next week,
You have got to finish that quilt.
You can't die next month,
With Thanksgiving and all that baking.
December is out of the question, of course.
Christmas triumphs over death.
So you see, my oldest and dearest friend -
You simply cannot die.
But by the time I finished it, she could not hear it.
She left us too soon, or perhaps right on time. She would not have wanted to linger in pain.
We who remember her fondly told Lallie stories at her service, and gathered for dinner and got to know one another. She would have loved the gathering. I met two of her closest friends, and we are keeping in touch. Even in death, Lallie brought people together.
I'd say rest in peace, Lallie, but I can't imagine you that still.
I'll see you again, my friend.