As we all know, death doesn’t know about the calendar. When you least expect it, a loved one is taken from you leaving you shocked, mystified, angry.
Take Andy Reid. His son Garrett, with a history of substance issues, died last weekend leaving the Philly region shocked at the news. At 29, despite past issues, no one expected to hear that news from training camp in Lehigh. It was a sad day for the Reid family, the Eagles and most of the city of Philadelphia as people generally put football issues aside and grieved for the Reids.
That one came way out of the blue.
Yesterday I went to a funeral too. But the person wasn’t an NFL coach or someone famous. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t “famous” in her own way.
Rosalie M. Clark – or Clarkie as she was known to many – lived in Ardmore and had been an LPN for many years. She had worked at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine with my wife and when she retired, she agreed to help us take care of our oldest – and first – child.
Now Clarkie was interesting to say the least. I met her a few times before she had retired from the nursing business. She had quite the zest for life and you never needed to tell her twice to be honest with her opinions.
Not that it should matter – and it didn’t to me – but Clarkie was also African-American. So until I got to know her very well, I was quite awkward in trying not to say anything that she might find offensive to her heritage. I don’t know why other than I really liked her from what I knew of her and wanted to make sure she felt like I was respectful. I don’t know, people do weird things – me included — but it was out of love and respect, nothing more.
Well, she straightened me out on that note quick enough. It came in a discussion of Randall Cunningham, quarterback at the time for the same Philadelphia Eagles. My feeling was that Randall while a pretty good quarterback was somewhat strange, with the gold laces and all, not to mention the “I’ll be back scrambling” motto he adopted after getting injured one season.
“Oh my god Andy,” Clarkie said matter-of-factly, “you can just say it. He’s just a big ole weird black fella. He’s an embarrassment to this old black woman. My gosh, he’s needs to just cut the crap and play football. Um, um, um…”
And that was that. From that moment on I knew all was right in the Clarkie world. I’d pick up Ryan from her house in the late afternoon. We’d eat homemade apple sauce, Breyer’s vanilla ice cream and watch General Hospital on her little color television she had in the kitchen. We’d laugh and carry on, playing with Ryan in his baby seat.
And there was never a secret or an opinion held back after that moment.
For real? For real. One day I walked into the house to get Ryan.
“Andy,” she said looking right at me.
“Yes?” I answered.
“I don’t mean anything by it,” she half-smiled, “but boy, you’re getting fat. You gotta lose that middle…”
I just stared back and then we both busted out laughing. And you know, she was right. Too much ice cream I guess – or not enough exercise.
But that was Clarkie. She was never at a loss for an honest opinion. But in it all there was the intention of love, respect and looking out for you.
At her funeral service yesterday at Bethel AME Church in Ardmore, her peers, and fellow churchgoers and just about everyone else shared the same feelings for her. She was active in her church and couldn’t do enough to help her fellow neighbor, friend or relative. As her pastor told the audience, she had lived a good life, tried to be a good citizen and worked hard for a better world.
And through all of that, she held close the people dearest to her heart.
Person after person came to Ryan – now a 26-year-old man – and asked him if he was the little baby in the picture magnet on Clarkie’s refrigerator. And through tears and a smile, he shook his head yes. That was the Clarkie’s way. While she might not see you for a while, your “picture” was always with her.
Even after the kids started to grow up, I tried to keep in touch as much as possible. I did some painting and fixing up for her in her Ardmore home. And when she moved to her apartment in Wynnewood, I hung some curtains and blinds for her. And when I did, she again reminded me that perhaps I “had put on a couple pounds…”
I knew she was just needling to get a laugh.
Then there was the time when I bought two Christmas trees from an old guy in our area that was clearing some land and was selling the trees for five bucks. In retrospect, the trees were not that great but I thought I was doing two good deeds in one shot. He seemed like a nice old guy – he gave us hot chocolate in his trailer – and she needed a tree.
And when I took it down to her?
“You want me to keep that dead ole thing?” she asked, that mischievous twinkle in the eye.
“Well, yeh, I guess,” I said back.
“Um, um, OK,” she shot back. I knew it was a disaster but she couldn’t bring herself to turn it down.
And that was Clarkie.
There will never be another one like her. Whether it was her wonderful cooking, her beautiful heart and caring nature for everyone around her or her sassy way, she was one of a kind. And her pastor was correct. She ran the hard race, she lived the good life and she served the world like no one else could. She made us all proud to have known her.
I suppose my dedication to her should include dropping a few pounds. Either way though, Clarkie will always be in our hearts. She is one of those people we’re not all lucky enough to know. And we were the lucky ones.
– Andy Hachadorian