I have been riding the #17 bus to work for nearly four years now. Every other week or so, a very sweet elderly lady is seated in the spot right behind the driver. She always has a smile on her face and greets me with some type of compliment. Usually, she says she likes my blouse or my earrings and then proceeds to comment on the weather. Her voice is extremely kind and her words are always optimistic. Nine times out of ten she is on the way to meet her son who lives in Tigard. They make a plan to have breakfast twice a month.
I have been walking to working almost every day for the past two months, so I haven't been riding much. Today, however, I was nursing a stubborn headache from too many green cocktails and bagpipes. So, I caught the bus just as it turned onto Glisan. I saw her when I boarded...but didn't say hello because she'd buried herself in the morning paper. Half way through the ride she noticed me and said hello. The first words out he mouth were an apology for being so distracted. I asked her how she had been and she replied "Fine." Twice. She then paused for a moment and responded with a comment about having had missed the terrible flu that was going around and proceeded to comment on the all the great sunshine we've been getting. I think it was then I noticed something was different. Her nylon knee-highs were bunched around her ankles, her pretty blond hair was flat and lifeless...and she wasn't wearing a smidge of make up. Usually on brunch days she wore soft pink lipstick. If she was meeting him for coffee, it was a much deeper color. I noticed all these details about the time she had finished her statement about having missed flu season as I was about to ask if she was feeling alright. Instead, I gave her a big smile and asked if she was headed to breakfast with her son. I loved they way she spoke so highly about him and lit up with joy with the anticipation of their prearranged meetings. Her eyes darted to the floor for the first time ever as she shook her head back and forth. "No, no" she said and they followed by saying that he had passed away. "January 28th. Pancreatic cancer. He didn't even know he had it." There was a good 30 second pause after I said my condolences before she nodded and told me how much she missed him. Her eyes were tired and dry as she said she was just so thankful that she still had such a great family with her grandchildren and her other son that was still alive.
I've probably spoken to this woman sixty, maybe seventy times in the past four years, however, every morning that we crossed paths, she managed to raise my spirit. Never once had I heard her say a single negative thing about anything. In fact, she consistently spoke the opposite. Her positive outlook on life has been a true inspiration to me. Today I felt more grateful to be alive then ever before...even with the spitting heach and hung-over nausea. Ironic really, when you think about it. I don't even know this kind woman's name and I haven't been able to get her out of my mind all day. God bless her.