Yesterday I saw some balloons floating in the breeze.
It reminded me of Mama and her best friend.
I remember the day we told Mama the sad news.
She lowered her head, clasped her hands together, and cried.
Her dearest friend had died in her sleep.
That afternoon as I listened, Mama talked about her friend and the good times they shared.
"She loved balloons," Mama said. "She got balloons for her birthday."
Both were afraid of storms, so they would huddle together on stormy nights when sleep wouldn't come. They sat in rocking chairs with their flashlights until the thunder and lightning subsided.
Their staying together at night time just happened. Once when Mama was getting ready to go home after an afternoon visit, the neighbor said, "Why don't you spend the night?" So Mama stayed.
Soon the elderly friends were spending every night together, though Mama went home during the daylight hours.
They lived on the same street, just a few houses apart.
When both began to lose their eyesight, they took to singing instead of watching television.
Mama's friend would say, "Let's sing How Great Thou Art."
Mama would answer, "Why, I can't sing that. I don't know the words."
"Well, make up some words," Mama's friend would say.
They would sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," their high-pitched voices quavering in unison. Though they were too feeble to attend church anymore, they often received greeting cards from their Sunday School class. Sometimes they received brightly colored balloons from family and friends too.
Once in a while before it got dark, they sat in the porch swing and waved at passersby. At bedtime they reminded each other to take their medicines. And they watched the clock for the eight o'clock bedtime countdown. Mama would remind, "Don't forget to take out your hearing aid."
Then the friend would jokingly ask," Have you got your gun out?"
"Sure do," Mama would joke back." It's right here on the table beside my bed."
That probably came about because one night after Mama and her friend had gone to bed, someone did try to break into the house. Mama thought she heard a noise from the kitchen so she went to see what it was. She flipped the light switch and saw a figure outside the kitchen window. She called my brother who alerted the city police who immediately responded, as did my brother. Sure enough, there was evidence that someone had tried to pry open the window. Mama had scared him off.
Mama's friend had borne six children, five girls and one son.
The son died at an early age and Mama's friend never reconciled to his death.
Though he died years ago, the friend spoke of her son as though it happened only yesterday. She told and retold stories about the son who died too early of a devastating disease.
She spoke, too, of her husband, long deceased, and how they picked cotton and struggled to raise their family.
As Mama and her friend shared stories of old, they became very close. They talked about their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"What would we do without our kids?" the friend would ask.
"We'd be in a fix without them, wouldn't we?" Mama would answer.
Mama's friend was 101 years old when she died on a Good Friday.
At her gravesite, 101 white balloons were released and floated toward Heaven.
Mama said it must have been a beautiful sight.