George FriedaA friend of mine died this week. For the first time in my grief life the tears I am shedding are of joy and relief. Oh, yes, I will miss him. Greatly. He was a sun in my life. I always looked forward to seeing him. And, yes, Husband knew.

In February, 2007, I realized a dream. I became a paid writer. I was asked to write a column for the Springfield News Sun about the county I live in. The column started out as bi-weekly on Monday. By July, the job became weekly on Sunday. I knew that was the big time – to be a Sunday columnist– since that was the day of the week with the greatest circulation.

In no time, my column that I hoped displayed my inner Erma Bombeck, provided me with a notoriety I was not expecting.

Strangers stopped me in the grocery store to express fondness for my column. I rarely got away from 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass without someone letting me know that my writing had already been read. Usually these statements let me know how I ranked in the reader’s priority list. “I read you second, right after the comics/sports pages.”

The rest of my life didn’t stop because of the column. In other words, I did not hide from my very minor celebrity.I continued to do many of the activities I had done, including volunteering at the Springfield Performing Arts Center.

One night while I was a greeter, the secretary from my church attended a performance. Sue ended up standing with me before the performance. We both noticed an elderly couple across the hallway who stopped abruptly while looking in our direction. Sue should have been my public relations manager.

She soon embarrassed me by saying loudly, “Do you recognize her from her column picture.”

The couple both had broad smiles as they nodded their heads.

“Would you like her autograph?”

“Sue!” I thought.

The couple seemed thrilled and presented their program for the night’s performance. I gave them my very first autograph. In order to personalize it I asked for their names . Sue stood by grinning and chatting away about the way I always referred to “Husband” and “Son” while I wrote a thankful note to George and Frieda McCann.

They were both short, neither much over 5 feet tall, although truthfully, I could not estimate his height accurately since he was bent over and walked with a cane. Her long white hair was twisted up and attached to the back of her head. They both had an unmistakable joy of life and each other that produced a contagious effervescence and twinkle in their eyes.

Subsequent volunteering posts brought the two of them for an evening at the symphony or a touring Broadway musical production. I always looked out for them and they for me.

I found out from a long-time Springfield resident that George had run a pharmacy in downtown. Frieda was a very active volunteer for the local library and helped to set up a library and other programs for the jail inmates. The two of them were in their 80s and seemingly had more energy than a two-year old.

Over time, we shared stories, prayer requests (mostly from me) and our common Catholicism. My close and longest friendship was supported by George when I let him know that Father Bob had cancer. He added Father Bob to his prayer list and would call me from time to time to see how Father Bob was doing.

When a 6-month old cousin was diagnosed with a kidney cancer, George was quick to add Bryson to his prayer list and then always ask how Bryson was doing when we’d see each other.

One year, a few days before St. Patrick’s Day, the McCanns came to the symphony. I was in the cloak room (coat room). George wore no green. I pretended horror (McCann!) and gave him my shamrock pin. He seemed tickled.

The McCann’s home was on a 2011 bicycle tour of homes. They insisted that “Husband” and I come in for a drink. It was the first opportunity for them to meet the man they had been reading about for four years.

I was excited for my friends to meet my husband while they expressed their disappointed that they could not have ridden on the tour since they had been avid bicyclists. George’s back had gotten so bad, he could not comfortably ride anymore. I think Frieda could have, but she would do what George could.

Time moved on, but George got slower and more bent over. It was a shock when Frieda died in January, 2014. She was in the hospital fighting flu symptoms and then she wasn’t. This was not the timing I expected. Frieda was 90.

George was devastated. His bride of 70 years.

Today I found out that George (92) and Frieda are reunited. I will miss my friend greatly, but I’m so glad he and Frieda are reunited.

I love you George and Frieda. Watch over me, please.

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