Changed for Good

This was a difficult week.

It began with learning that a sixty-nine year old third cousin of mine passed away. She never married; never had children. She left behind a cat and the home that she inherited from her parents. An autopsy was being performed because she died alone and only was found ten days later. I still don’t know the cause of death.

I only met Deborah face-to-face once — three years ago — and she immediately commented on my blue “Sherman” eyes. I had found her as a result of my ancestry search efforts and our one meeting solidified our relationship. My father and I sat with her for hours in her Washington home, sharing stories and looking through her mother’s family photo albums. She seemed thrilled to be reunited with family. We stayed in touch via occasional emails and phone calls. And now she’s gone.

*     *     *

This evening, my fifty-nine year old fourth cousin passed away. She effectively was gone on Sunday; her brain deprived of oxygen for ten minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest. She collapsed in her kitchen and never awoke. Today she was taken off all life support and peacefully died with family by her side.

I only met Dale face-to-face once — last year — at her first and only marriage. My husband and I went to the barnyard wedding in Kentucky and were embraced by family we didn’t really know. I had found Dale and her brother as a result of my ancestry search efforts. All it took was one black and white photo, circa 1928, to confirm that we were related. They warmly welcomed me as a “Sherman” cousin. For the past five years, Dale and I stayed in touch via email and the occasional phone call. I loved her passion and enthusiasm (and gossipy nature), especially with regard to family and friends. I felt in her a kindred spirit. And now she’s gone.

*     *     *

I don’t know why these women came into my life. And I’ll never know if my presence in theirs meant anything to them. But, I do know that — like the song — they both changed me for good.

“For Good”

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most, to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

Deborah and Dale, sweet girls, thank you for your all to brief presence in my life. May you both rest in peace. I hope you’re now together swapping stories. (Send some clues!) I know your memories will be for a blessing.

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