I was in South Carolina on business when I got the news that Ilma Stone had passed away. For many years she was my Mom’s best friend so her loss saddened me at first. But then the idea entered my head that the two of them are reunited in heaven and I couldn’t help smiling. Like my parents, Ilma’s final years were plagued by declining health, so belief in an afterlife where she has been made whole is a comfort. Still, every time I think of Ilma I smile. I can’t help it. She always made me laugh. Let me explain.
Forty years ago, I was a cocky, wisecracking teenager. It was about this time when I was introduced to my mother’s new friend, Ilma Stone. She was a very pretty lady with an infectious laugh who could be laughing one minute and crying the next. She and Mom were always sitting at the dining room table nibbling on pound cake, sipping iced tea and talking about Jesus. That’s pretty much all I ever saw them do together. Sometimes their discussions would get pretty intense. I would bound down the stairs and pass by them on my way to the kitchen and find Ilma sitting there with tears running down her face. I would always go over and hug her and ask if she was ok. She would always smile and hug me back. Then every once in a while I couldn’t resist saying, “Hey, look Ilma…a CAT!!” She would always scream and nearly jump out of her chair and onto the table. I thought it was great fun but Mom would always fuss at me for being so mean. Ilma was more afraid of cats than anything in the universe so naturally, I always kidded her about it. Somehow she loved me anyhow.
Tomorrow, I will attend her funeral, the first such occasion I’ve been to since Dad passed away. There will be a viewing before the service. I used to hate everything about funerals. But now that I’ve been through two big ones, not so much anymore. Besides, this is Ilma. I know where she is and who she’s with.