I met Gloria, years ago, but I didn't really know Gloria until after she moved next door.
I saw her around town, at football games, at bingo, at the grocery store in this small town it is not hard at all to run into someone you know - every where you go.
I met Gloria in her "hay day" as they call it. She ran a successful interstate trucking business from her home and she was an accomplished singer and hung around the likes of Aretha Franklin, no kidding.
She had several children, I didn't know any of them really, but I saw Amanda the most; as she was the "other" BFF of Alicia....Kelly being the other one.
I make assumptions about those that I don't know - that first impression thing- that tells me a bit about the person ... and I suppose we all do that to some degree? For example I would assume that a girl that wears camo.... well she probably is a 4 wheeling, mud bogging, hunting girl or dates one that does or last but not least is the daughter of either sex that participates in such. Well, Gloria, on first impression the very first time I met her... told me all about her successes both personal and business and about her children's participation in the Band Program. She didn't mention her older children that I found out about many years later, just the two that lived here in VA. She told me the surface things about her life... and her husband.... but nothing really that prepared me for who she really was.
I wasn't invited to her get togethers in the early days , I didn't know her well, I waved to her at the football games that I was photographing and she was basically ignoring ....until the band started to play. She was a proud band mom, volunteered, showed up at games and many of the band members became to know and love her ....others like me ....were periphial, as I did watch , photograph and cheer on all of the kids on the field, especially the football players. I find myself staying on the periphial these days of all of my friends and most family too . I don't trust , quite like I used to.
I used to trust everyone....that changed.
I got to know Gloria's son, as he lived next door to me for a while. We were great neighbors and shared food and music alot, with Eli. Fond Fond Memories of them both. I caught glimpses of Gloria as she did things with my friend , Tommi, who worked for her for a while. Oddly enough we didn't do anything , the three of us?
And with that Gloria also changed. I got to know her and her husband through not only her 3 friends that I knew but also her son. Through 3 mutual friends I kept up with Gloria as she traveled all around the country, sold her home, lost her business and then took some Angel Flights , as she found out she had stage 4 cancer, a type I cannot even pronounce, nor do I have any desire to learn in the near future. My preconceived visuals and understanding of "who" Gloria was , all of the sudden changed and I began to know her and her husband in an entire different light.
We would keep most of our dealings with each other "off social media" for many reasons. We shared stories and coffee many mornings. She and her husband stayed at my home and in my time share on more than one occasion. And she gifted me two items I will forever cherish along with a couple of plantsthat didn't make it long, I am sure they missed her and her special touch too.
I photographed Gloria and Tim before her first chemo treatment. When I photograph someone(s) it is a bit of an intimate experience and I form a relationship with my clients on an entirely different , more vulnerable level. I found that Gloria and Tim were very much like me ...in so many ways.... well not their physical selves...but their souls.
Gloria read tarrot , Gloria believed in God. Gloria loved symbolism and deep conversations and so did Tim. Gloria loved the ducks and geese here on the lake in spite of the majorities opinion or voice, she fed those birds for as long as she could. She was angry when she found out that some of the neighborhoods "bosses" was stealing the goose eggs from the mothers and calling it "population control" ...it was probably the same person we had decided that made the rule that there would be no trash cans to empty on the beaches and oh yeah...took away our bonfires on the peninsula.
We also decided that we liked each other. We could sit for hours and vent ....or sit in silence and she would hook rugs and I would watch her or talk to Tim.
She gave me one of her scarves that she wore after losing her hair that I loved on her. She gave me my birthstones Tree of Life- that I keep in my kitchen window facing the house she lived in, that we visited in ..in front of her gas burning metal heater that has a warmth that would warm your tired, cold bones..... and hers.
She would "go down the rabbit hole" for a few days after treatments. She did every clinical trial that she could be accepted in, and got arrested for possession of her medical marijuna in Texas driving to California....the state that she carried her card in. Everyone who hears the story laughs at first and then the next thing that comes to mind is "THOSE ASSHOLES!"
She gave me my first Iphone....it had a severely cracked screen but it still worked. I had replaced the screen and used it for a while until the upgrades made it so useless, I had to change to a phone I could afford.
There was always something being cooked next door ....and at my house too. We shared our cooking frequently as there was no way either one of us wanted to eat the same thing for a week. One of the most favorite things she liked that I sent her way was home made crab rangoon.... my favorite they sent me was some awesome clam chowder. Then it changed and she didn't eat much of anything at all..
She finally quit smoking and went to vape. Her body rebelled.... and went down the rabbit hole more often and each time taking a toll on Gloria's body that housed such a beautiful soul.
I reached out once to a former friend to try to get some natural news updates in regard to international information as she knew that information like the back of her hand. She offered no help , no assistance , no nothing...it was then that I knew that friend's core had truly rotted .... it was gone. I mourned the loss of that living soul whose body was complete - as I was also mourning the loss of Gloria's body whose soul was complete.
My daughter, who always had a spiritual connection in the past many times made gloria a vape holder to wear around her neck. When she gave it to her it as if my daughter became possessed. She talked out of her own voice about asking to be healed and exactly how to do so. I have never heard my daughter talk like this ever before and never again . I left feeling confused as Gloria graciously held her hand and her temperament and got preached to by a much younger person that she really didn't know. Christie my neighbor across the street was always going over scriptures with Gloria too.... but oddly enough that was never what WE talked about. We talked about her talent, her craft, her children, her food, the view , the weather , or just some concert story etc. We talked a few times about how scared she was and how she didn't want to die. She wanted to go see her grandchildren in California...she left to see them , stayed about a month and came home a different person.
Gloria's energy tanked. She was in and out of the hospital a lot. She lost so much weight and slept as much as she could to stay out of pain. I never talked to her in depth again. I hollered out to her as I saw Tim (her husband) helping her tiny weak body to the car. That would be the last time I saw her.
Her children were in town. They called me every day and gave me updates about her lucidity going in and out while at the hospital and her wish to come home to die in her own bed, or maybe overlooking the lake outside watching her geese and ducks. She may or may not have known I was there had I gone to the hospital but more than likely if I were there during a moment of lucidity it would have taken away that time from her husband and/or children and I knew that they were all there just waiting for those moments to take with them, back to California.
Tim came over a few times after Gloria was gone, after her memorial that Luther and Nicky were so gracious to host. He spoke of her gently and warmly and stated that he would do it all over again , even knowing how it all ended, he loved her deeply. He spoke of being jealous of the angels that got to spend time with her now and how he wished he could too. He had a yardsale, he loaded up that big ole truck and went to have yet another service for Gloria ..in her home town, with her sister in Ohio. He celebrated her life as much as he could while mourning her death at the same time.
I stayed away mostly but I did hang out with Amanda, Ben and Tim reminiscing and talking about her last moments once she was gone. I did not intrude on the time that they needed, only showing up when called or asked to but gently offering breakfast or dinner or anything they may need. They accepted a couple of times and I couldn't fix it fast enough. I was hugged tightly and I knew that was really what they needed most of all.
I talk to Gloria sometimes .... I look at my garnet tree of life that she gave me and sometimes I wear her scarf. I never feed the geese or ducks or heron and other lake wildlife but I love watching them and photographing them ...as if she were beside me.
Christmas came this year and it was painfully obvious there was no surprise package that she always left on my porch when I wasn't home to come home too. It was always a beautiful card with heartfelt writing and something baked ...and something to celebrate with ... how thoughtful she was. I miss her. I miss my wonderful next door neighbors that I could go sit and talk with for hours in my PJ's. I miss my neighbor that called and said "is coffee ready?" I miss Tim & Gloria both..... but I understand , I understand that she is now out of pain and Tim is where he is loved and can call his daughter(s) and ask "is dinner ready yet, and love on those precious Grandchildren too!"