‘I’m 97 years old,” she informed me when first we met.

She then quickly rose to her feet, and with the assistance of her walker, headed for the door, expecting me to follow.

I was a volunteer for the Southern Maine Agency on Aging and had been assigned to accompany Bea on her weekly walk.

It quickly became apparent that she was intensely independent and accepted assistance reluctantly. But we managed to develop a compromise and eventually a bond.

Over the weeks, after each walk, we would normally sit and talk for a while.

Bea loved to tell me stories of her youth. It seems she left home in Maine at a very early age and lived for a while in Boston, working as a nanny, and in New York, where she was a member of a new dance team known as the Rockettes.

Soon we were talking easily with each other, relating probably more then either of us ever imagined we would. Through three birthdays, our friendship grew stronger.

When she hit the century mark, I attended her birthday luncheon where she sat at the head of the table and surveyed the cluster of friends and family that had come to honor her.

Her daughter had made arrangements for her to receive a new hearing aid, since her old one was no longer adequate.

I remember asking her after lunch how she liked the new aid. She said, “It’s awfully noisy in here.”

One day, I received a call from her daughter, advising that Bea had suffered a fall and was being moved to a nursing home.

Bea, however, never accepted that she could no longer go home. Each week, she would tell me that she would be leaving soon and I should visit her at home.

I would nod and assure her that I would. Then we would sit and visit while she retold the stories of her life.

I would listen and laugh as if hearing them for the first time. One week when I came to visit, Bea was not in her room. I checked at the desk and was advised that Bea had passed that morning.

I felt a great sense of sorrow wash over me. Even though it was inevitable that it would one day happen, I found I was not ready.

It has been about a year and I can still hear her laugh.

I remember her holding my hand and telling me I had a good heart, to me the greatest compliment I could be paid.

Before I would leave, I would give her a kiss and a hug and tell her I loved her. She would always ask if I would be back the following week and I would say I would.

I know how much Bea loved life and had lived it to the fullest. I’m thankful for having known her, even for such a short time.

She definitely left her footprints on my heart.

 

– Special to the Telegram