I went to a memorial service today for a woman I’ve never met.
I sat in the second row of the church next to a woman who knew zero of the words being sung, but sang louder than anyone else. I listened as person after person talked about Jenny, a homeless woman who was killed when she was hit by an oncoming vehicle.
Jenny was 57 when she died. Her family hadn’t seen her in years. She was a drifter and had only recently come into the area where her ashes are now laid to rest.
I listened as the preacher told the crowd of church members, Jenny’s family and homeless men and women about their debates on the merits of cream and sugar in coffee — if you’re curious, Jenny was in favor.
I teared up as I looked at the family seated in front of me. Tears rolled down each of their cheeks as people stood to share their Jenny stories.
I never met Jenny and, even if she hadn’t been killed, the likelihood of meeting her would have been slim to none, but Jenny was still able to effect even me.
After the service today I spoke with her younger sister, Nona. She said something that had me thinking the whole way back to the newsroom.
She said that she knew her sister lived a good life, while not what society would deem as normal. I asked how she knew and she looked around the room at the clusters of people talking about her big sister.
“You always hope that you will be that kind of person, the kind that makes an impression in people’s lives. From today, I know Jenny did.”
Makes you think.