I lost a dear friend a couple of weeks ago to cancer. Vi (Miss Vi) was the local school bus driver, which is how I first met her. I have never met and probably will not ever meet another like her, all who knew her agree. Miss Vi had THE biggest heart, always addressing you as muffin, honey, darlin', or precious. She was genuine, the real deal. She was the brightest spot in many children's day. If nothing else, they knew for that ten or twenty minute bus drive twice a day, they mattered. And that they were loved.
She was a flower child from the sixties, with tie-dyed tee shirts, a flourescent orange nail-polished pinky finger, and a bowl filled with treats for all of the neighborhood dogs and cats (which would get dispensed at each stop with eagerly awaiting pets). When Beans heard the bus engine coming down the street she would start licking her lips (Pavlov was right). I always pictured a little cartoon bubble over her head with a giant cracker on wheels.
Vi was also my dog sitter and had a special bond with Beans. She loved all of her children and animals equally. Even though she told me Beans was her hands down favorite, I secretly knew that she told that to everyone that she pet sat for. One time when she was dog sitting for us, I gave her my poodle tote bag to keep the mail in. She made such a fuss over it, I said "Vi, please keep it". "Oh no, I couldn't" she would say. I insisted, seeing how excited she was with it. You would have thought I gave her a million bucks. She carried that bag so proudly. Someone who gave of herself so much, asked for so little.
She became much more than a bus driver and dog sitter, she became my true friend. We had many long chats about everything under the sun. Her memorial service was filled with a wild assortment of people from honors teachers at the local schools to grown children who rode her bus in kindergarten to the check out employees at the local grocery where she shopped. Beans was there, of course. I proudly (or obnoxiously) confessed to everyone through my tears that Beans was, of course, her favorite. I was so moved looking around at the crowd that gathered during her service by how she truly brought out the best in everyone, even in her absence.
I told myself I would honor her by trying to bring out the best in people during my day. I am no fool, I will never be able to pull it off with her grace and style, but maybe every now and again I will remember to call someone muffin, darlin', or precious.
By sharing this story I hope to honor my good friend and spread the wonderful lesson I learned from Miss Vi, that we have a choice in how we choose to see people, and it makes a significant difference in their lives and ours.