Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Old-Timey Friend, Hester

I wish you’d known my wonderful friend, Hester Kimpel, who passed on to Glory two weeks ago at 96. I was driving to Atlanta to be with my family when I heard the news. I was thankful that her suffering was at an end and that she was with her Lord, but had to sort of seal off my personal feelings to deal with my Papa’s illness.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve had more time to grieve and to reflect on her truly amazing life. The sermon yesterday was about the death of King Saul and how there were many reactions to his passing. David, who had been persecuted for years by Saul, mourned, tearing his garments. Another person took advantage of his death to try to promote his own agenda with the new King David,  The news was hidden from others, Saul’s enemies, because they would have danced in the streets, rejoicing at his passing. Pastor Sam asked us the very penetrating question, “How will others react to your death?"

My immediate reaction was relief and joy for her, as she had been suffering from cancer. Hester was bedridden and confused by medication. She couldn’t really eat or read, two of her great loves. As she said to her daughter, Chris, “This just isn’t my style.” No kidding.

Hester was born in Wales before World War I. Her family was due to go to America on the HMS Lusitania. However, the Germans sunk this vessel and the US entered World War I as a result. Her father worked with horses. Her mother, Minna Dix,was rather deaf and loved to wear polka dots.

She grew up in Pittsburgh and married Holmes Kimpel. He was a handsome man, judging by his World War II picture on her bureau. He had a soothing voice and loved to dance. After Holmes’ death, she moved to an apartment on the Elizabeth River here in Portsmouth and started a new life, well into her eighties.

Hester walked and took the bus everywhere. She traveled to Japan alone to visit friend when she was in her late eighties. She traveled alone to New Mexico at 96 with terminal cancer to visit her daughter. When her physician advised her of the grim diagnosis, Hester comforted the doctor. As I dissolved into tears at the news, she said, “Annie, I’m 96. I have to die from something.”

Hester loved life. I gave her a Starbucks habit when she was 91. We whiled away many hours at Starbucks. Her drink was a mocha frappucino with extra whipped cream and she relished it to the very last drop. Sometimes she'd slurp up the whipped cream with a straw and a grin.  She’d tell me about her travels with Holmes and about her life without him while he was away fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Hester even shared the little bookkeeping notebook she kept all these years of household expenses during the Second World War.

Hester loved to eat. She loved hot dogs, Chinese food, and pecan rolls from Pannera. She liked a good breakfast which nearly always included toast with orange marmalade. The Dollar Store was one of her favorite haunts…she loved a bargain.

She taught me a lot of wisdom about love, the Lord, and life.  She'd say, "Annie, I don't worry too much.  I live it all in the Lord's hands. Hester taught me how to live life well.

I taught her “the rule of 90.” Apparently Hester’s friend had chided her about the expense of the sharp cheddar cheese Hester purchased while with her. Hester was torn between being indignant about it and wondering if she was being too self-indulgent. I told her that once you were 90, you could eat as much chocolate as you liked and could spend as much money on sharp cheddar cheese as you felt like. The rule of 90 also applied if you felt like having an ice cream cone for lunch, if you wanted to blow off Bible study one Wednesday, and also if you felt like buying a shirt you didn’t really need. Hester loved this rule and I did, too.

Hester did not want to be treated like an old lady. So I didn’t treat her like one. She loved to dress up and have coordinating jewelry to go with each outfit. She thoughtfully chose what she would wear and often wore a snazzy ball cap that many 20 year olds would have worn.

Hester loved, loved, LOVED the movies. She taught me how to order Netflix over the computer. One balmy spring day four years ago, Bruce and I and another friend were walking with her to “the Chinese.” We were trying to remember the name of an actor which eluded us. “Oh yes, I know, he was in Pay it Forward and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,“ I said as all of us, generations behind Hester, wracked our brains for his name. Hester piped up from the back, “Oh yeah, that’s Kevin Spacey.”

Hester talked breathing in and breathing out, as my grandfather would say.  She had an adorable little verbal tic.  When she meant to say "real" she would say "really."  For example, in a discussion of a colleague of my husband's nickname of Flounder, she said, "Is that his really name?"  I loved that.

One day when we were on line at Starbucks, when Hester was 95, she was lamenting to me that she’d only spent 20 minutes on the treadmill in her apartment’s little gym. Hester loved to dance and often danced by herself in her apartment to keep limber. Our church had a long-standing tradition of dancing quite a goofy number to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and Hester was always the first one up to participate.  You can see her above "Christmas Dancing."

During her final days, Bruce and I sat by her bed as she prayed and we read from the Bible to her. She murmured under her breath, “I’m not worthy, Lord. I’m not worthy.” Bruce said, “you’re right Hester, you aren’t worthy. None of us are, but Jesus is and He has taken care of everything.”

I know that Hester is dancing with Jesus right now, but my eyes blur with tears as I write this, because I shall miss her.  And for the rest of us, if we get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope we, like Hester, will dance until the Lord takes us home.


Debra said...

Oh Anne, I'm so sorry you lost your friend. She was amazing! Thanks so much for sharing her with us and yes, I'm certain she's dancing with Jesus and with old friends in Heaven and having a wonderful, wonderful time (while thinking she can't wait until *you* get there to see and experience everything!). Hugs, Debra

Chad said...

Oh yes, the verbal tic "really"...only I think it was more like "weally". She had such cute and funny r's. I remember hearing Hester reply to someone who asked her what it was like to be in her 90's and she said, "well, I don't buy green bananas". What a sharp wit she had. And the unique ability to make a smart remark and not offend anyone. Just thinking about her makes me smile. Thanks for writing this, Amy

Judy said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.

Katie said...

That's my grandma! I'm glad she had such wonderful friends who appreciated her so much. Thanks, Annie.

Anonymous said...

This is so beautifully written and so captures our Nini! The remembrances you've written are so strong and poignant. As I was reading I almost felt I was taken back into her presence to enjoy her again. Thanks for this.

Karlin (sister of Katie)

Anonymous said...

This is so beautifully written and so captures our Nini! The remembrances you've written are so strong and poignant. As I was reading I almost felt I was taken back into her presence to enjoy her again. Thanks for this.

Karlin (sister of Katie)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Annie for sharing a glimpse of Hester!! I wish I'd known her but I am friends with Karen, one of her daughters. Knowing Karen and her wit, I can only imagine Hester and I know now where Karen acquired her wit!! I recently lost my momma, age 87yrs. I imagine her and Hester dancing and I can't wait until the LORD takes me to dance with them! May God comfort you in your sorrow. Ruth

donna pothier said...

thanks so much Annie for your memories of Hester. I think you brought her back to life while i was reading! We need to remember that we WILL see her again in eternity! I feel very privileged to have been a small part of her life. She sure taught me so much about loving and living life to the fullest!

Anonymous said...

I am an acquaintance of Hester's from her last church in Pgh., PA. Just learned of her death from her daughter, Karen. She forwarded your blog and I just laughed and cried, enjoying every blessed word and picture. It captured her spirit of enjoying life. Thank you, thank you for taking the time to make this beautiful memory for all of us who were touched by Hester's friendship, smile, wit and faith. I can't wait to see her in heaven, too!

Nancy from Pittsburgh