by Bill Clark
This afternoon the sanctuary at the First Presbyterian Church was just as full as it had been for the regular morning service. We were there to honor our beloved friend Elizabeth Watson, who was killed in a tragic accident a week ago Thursday.
Elizabeth stood only about four feet tall, but her physical stature was no measure of the huge impact she had on those who knew her. For some forty years she sang in the church choir, and rarely if ever missed a Sunday. Her enthusiasm for everything was infectious. She was child-like in her simplicity. Her emotions were nothing if not genuine. She loved life.
Elizabeth, you see, was slightly impaired. Not retarded - that's too strong a word, although those who didn't get to know her might have labeled her as such. She hobbled rather than walked; she was hard of hearing; she came right out with whatever she was thinking; and on a scale of prepossessiveness running from 1 to 10 would probably have come in at about 0.5. But none of that really mattered.
Outwardly unemployable, Elizabeth found work at three of our Town's best-known commercial institutions: D. W. Rogers department store, which went out of business after Elizabeth had worked there ten years; F. W. Woolworth's, which was sold to an upscale chain store after Elizabeth had worked there for ten years; and Mead's Stationery Store, which went out of business after Elizabeth had worked there for ten years. She outlasted them all.
Her final job was at the Pet Pantry, where she loved working with the animals and gave them all pet names - "my babies", as she called them. She was on her way to work at 6:30 AM that Thursday morning, on foot as always, and heading for her morning cup of coffee at Starbucks. In an alleyway less than fifty feet from the coffee shop, a large dump truck was backing out. Elizabeth, slight of stature and hearing-impaired, was as unaware of its presence as the driver of the truck was of hers. She was crushed to death.
Everyone in church this afternoon was crying. When we were with Elizabeth, we saw life through her eyes: simple, bright, and beautiful. Everything was wonderful - wonder-full - to her, and through her we all learned how beautiful life really is. She was a walking sermon; she was a real sweetheart in the truest sense of the word.
There will be an empty chair - hers - in the choir loft for the remainder of Lent. On Easter, it will be filled by someone else. But we will carry Elizabeth in our hearts as long as we live, mindful of her pluck and joy; and if sometimes life tries its best to get us down, we will remember her bright soprano voice saying, as she so often did, "Isn't it wonderful?"
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