“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Patti started to go blind over a decade ago when she was in her sixties. She had already retired from Boeing at that point but then had to give up her volunteer work at a local police department. She had a lot of things going against her in the building friends department—but had some true gifts that helped her continue to connect with people.
Key was her interest in others. When she met new people she would ask them about themselves, their kids, spouses, etc. Fortunately her memory was sharp and because she cared about others she was great at retaining this information in follow up conversations. She was a popular patron at her regular coffee stops and her favorite restaurant, Plum Delicious.
When she broke her hip last November she spent an extended stay in a local rehab facility. Her smile, interest in the staff at her temporary home, and positive approach to therapy sessions helped her establish a new circle of friends. And it didn’t hurt that she had us drop a large selection of chocolates after she moved home.
She also remembered people through birthday and anniversary cards. Her friend, Fay, would help her select cards for her extensive list of recipients during shopping trips to the local Fred Meyer. Fay would sometimes read many cards to Patti until she decided it was the right one. Her card list numbered over 75 and ranged from close relatives to the son of her dentist.
When she celebrated her 80th birthday party last January the guests included relatives from out of state, staff from her hip fracture rehab facility, fellow retirees, AA buddies, church friends, and many others. Nearly 80 people helped her mark the occasion. Not a bad turnout for a little old blind lady.
I’ve seen that the best conversationalists are not necessarily those that have something witty to say, but those who listen with genuine interest about the lives of others. Patti demonstrated those sincere listening skills and developed deep and lasting friendships over the course of her life.
Patti Scarrah passed away over Labor Day weekend after fighting esophageal and lung cancer for nearly a year. In her last week at home she had a steady stream of visitors and phone calls from her many walks of life. Sixty people attended her memorial mass and many others who couldn’t attend sent their wishes and prayers.
Many people at her age and in her situation would have passed away almost unnoticed. But she had a true gift for making friends.