Rest easy, my friend, Elsie Allen

I came to Richmond as a missionary assigned to Pace Memorial United Methodist Church straight out of college, in August 1991, maybe right about today.  I don’t recall the date, but that is where I met Elsie.  I worked in campus ministry and the drop-in center.

I left in February 1993 but I remained in touch with Elsie, and her friendship helped to hold me during some dark times.  I stayed in Richmond and attended the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (now part of Union Theological Seminary) from 1993 to 1995, when I graduated with my master’s degree.  

It’s amazing to think of that being 20 years ago, but it was, and that was when I left Richmond.  I hoped to continue studies at PSCE but somehow I knew that my time there was over.

Elsie and I remained in old-fashioned correspondence, the kind with letters and stamps and cards, though she wrote by hand and I, for the sake of legibility, wrote on the computer, in 14-point font with 1.5 lines spacing.  I failed to keep up my end time after time, waiting too long between letters, and I am sorry.  I think that I have seen her only once since 1995, and I am sorry about that, too.  I recall pulling up in front of her house unannounced and her coming out and looking at me and asking if I were who she thought I was.  She was with her silver K car, freshly repainted yet again.  I never thought much of K cars but I know that she loved hers.

Through her daughter, Billie Riston, I knew that Elsie was going to leave us soon and that information was a blessing, gave me a chance to say goodbye.

Endings are so very strange.  In one minute, you are an employee, with a place and duties, and in the next, you are a visitor.  In one minute, a house or apartment is your home and in the next, you have returned the key and left for the last time.  In one minute, you are alive, and in the next, you are not and not coming back.  In the movies, those minutes are accompanied by crashing, moving, powerful soundtracks but in real life, there is silence and if someone is not observing closely then that person misses the change.