When someone I have known dies, my mind immediately shuffles back through the Roll-a-Dex of my memories to the last moment I remember with them. Such was the case last night when I learned that Jean Stapleton was gone at age 90. The cards shuffled and in an instant, there she was: sitting at the piano singing, with me at her side, during the taping of a music special for CBS.
The year was 1977. At the time I was quite in awe of her, not just because I knew her as Edith Bunker from, “All In The Family,” but because she had an absolutely, lovely voice. Who knew? Last night, while reading her obituary, I learned that her own mother had been an opera singer. We shared many nice moments during those weeks, but what stayed with me most was her kind, almost quiet, frank naturalness, both with the cast and in performance.
I began to imagine all of the people whose lives, like mine, she touched in those 90 years. What came to their minds when they realized that she was gone? My guess is that like my own memory, it was some brief moment, some shared conversation or perhaps even a mere sighting. Our lives, like our memories are fleeting and ephemeral.
We connect with each other mercurially as if we are there–but not quite–there. Even a firm handshake leaves just a faint imprint with time. A great song is often remembered only by a few, mere lines. So, too, our own lives, are just a few notes on the page of life. Makes them sing. She did.
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” available on Kindle and in paperback.