Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saying goodbye to a dear neighbor and friend

I lost a good friend last month.

Her name was Nell Warwick Thomas.

She was my close neighbor for about 20 years in Rock Hill in the Tall Oak Villas condo community.

Nell would have been 102 years young in August.

(I say young because even in her latter years, Nell remained spry, alert and active).

Interesting that she was born in 1918—in the Spanish flu pandemic—and she died in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Here are a few of my memories of Nell.

1. She loved riding with me to Wendy’s to get a chocolate frosty. Nell and I shared a lot on those little evening adventures in my VW Beetle.
2. I don’t think she ever, ever missed church. She truly loved the Lord. In all the years I knew her, you could count on Nell being in church just about every time the church doors opened. She also supported many an evangelist. (I know this cause I saw the letters she mailed them).
3. She looked forward Monday through Friday to going to the Rock Hill Senior Center. She made lots of friends there and created all kinds of things—including cards, pictures, trinklets and little keepsakes for her friends and family.
4. And speaking of family, wow did she ever love them! You couldn’t be around Nell over a few minutes before you heard about her two sons, her sons’ wives and all her grandchildren. She was dearly fond of them all.
5. I didn’t keep a tally, but it seemed like many times when a noteworthy political candidate or official visited Rock Hill, Nell met with them. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that she got her picture taken—and published in the local newspaper— with former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
6. As public as she was, Nell dearly treasured having her own little private space—her one-bedroom condo at Tall Oaks. And she often told me that she especially liked not having anyone living above her or below her.
7. Nell religiously stayed away from egg yolks. She watched her cholesterol level and diet more closely than anyone I ever met. She urged me only to eat the egg whites, NOT the yolks.
8. The woman looked forward—and then some—to getting her mail. I know this because her mailbox was just a few inches away from mine. Many times I’d see Nell eagerly fetch her mail and sit on the stoop and read it right then and there in the common area. So entranced was she with getting a letter that Nell often forgot to close her box, leaving her key in it.
9. She professed, when I first met her in 2001 (and on many occasions after that) that there were three things in life that she didn’t want: a job, a dog and a man. (But I think that changed when she met her best friend David, who died a few years ago).
10. Nell could whip up a mean (delicious) dish of pistachio pudding. She knew this was one of my favorite treats and brought me many a bowl.
11. For many years, Nell, a registered nurse, took long walks through the residential area close to Tall Oak Villas. She became acquainted with just about everyone on those streets she walked. And if she happened to miss a few days of walking, some of those residents would begin to worry about where she was.
12. She shopped a lot at the nearby Dollar Store and opened my eyes to how many essentials you could get from that place.

Nell Warwick Thomas, who was born in a global pandemic and died in one, definitely lived life to its fullest. I believe she enjoyed every single one of her 101+ years on this earth. She taught me a lot and left me with countless indelible memories. I’m confident I speak for her neighbors and for her friends and family when I say that we are sure she is, as the opening of her obituary stated, “in the arms of her loving Heavenly Father.”

Farewell, Nell. You will always be remembered.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Retreat to the mighty Atlantic Ocean

Nothing like a global pandemic to make you appreciate the little things in life that many of us too often take for granted.

The things that really matter.

Like dogs, family, nature, health.

I’ve written a couple of freelance articles about the coronavirus and I’ve paid close attention to what others have said about it.

And, of course, I’ve endured this dreadful affliction—so far being virus free (to the best of my knowledge).

One place I can always go for solace—now that I live just a few miles from the beach—is the Atlantic Ocean.

Nothing like spending a little time, alone or with your loved ones, and taking in the magnificient splendor of the sea.

It always looks different.

Some days the ocean is fairly calm—with waves lapping up gently against the shoreline.

Other days the waves are huge, roaring, loud—crashing against the beach.

And yes, it gets hot (even sweltering in South Carolina) but there always seems to be a refreshing breeze at the beach. And more often than not, a cool breeze.

I’ve been to the Gulf of Mexico, and yes, the Gulf is scenic. But it’s not really an ocean in my opinion. Nothing about the Gulf approaches the powerful, ever-changing Atlantic Ocean.

Come to the ocean just to take in the beauty and majesty of something that seems as vast and overwhelming and mind-boggling as the universe itself.

Come to the ocean just to think and wonder and imagine.

Come here to be amazed and stirred in the depths of your soul. Get lost (while you also get browner by the second) in your peace and meditation.

Take it all in with sand between your toes and the salt air filling your lungs.

There’s no substitute for the magical ambience of the mighty Atlantic.

Then, if you’re alone, return home to your dogs and loved ones and share, as best you can, what you’ve just experienced. It's too good, too emotionally and sensuously overpowering to keep to yourself.

The Atlantic Ocean: it never gets old.