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Bonzer Words!: A Gold Lamé Heart

...She smoked her cigarettes, sipped her drinks, ate her favorite foods, told her hilarious jokes, fussed with her hair to make sure it wasn't out of place, brushed her shirt, slacks or skirt with her hand to shoo away any possible lint that might be lurking somewhere, flung her long-nailed hands about in the air with great abandon as she spoke, ate or groomed, and re-applied her dark red lipstick at each moment that it might even begin to lose its sharp, deep color...

Anna Marie Bangs writes movingly of a lady with a gold lamé heart.

Anna Marie writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

Her eyes were glazed and bulging. The utter pain flowing from them was overwhelming to see. The skeletal frame of her wasting body made them look even larger. Her hair was still being dyed the shocking, raven black she was so proud of. Her sister had dressed her in her favorite leopard print smock, that except for the myriad tubes and electrical lines streaming out from under it, would have made her look like she was ready for fine dining. My mind began remembering her as she was before the cancer.

You never saw anyone so well groomed, so proud of her stature, yet so gracious, kind and sweet. Clarice kept her hair done to perfection, her clothes pressed and clean, her nails manicured and her face perfectly painted to an artistic rendering of Cleopatra herself. Yet, people made fun of her for her outlandish appearance, her gold lamè bathing suit and slippers, her chalk black hair carefully coifed into a perfect French roll, or a tight swirl of curls neatly sprayed in place.

Clarice walked proudly through the "pits" of the hydroplane races each weekend in the early 1970s, decked out in her finest fake fur prints and glittering adornments. Her husband, an equally kind, humble man, walked proudly beside her, his deep love of her always visible in his adoring eyes. I watched her weekend after weekend and admired her grace, confidence and charm. She never let the snickering and giggles keep her from her self-appointed status as the "outlandish", over-dressed woman, swishing past the rows and rows of hydroplanes waiting impatiently for their turn to churn up the waters of the current race site.

I never said much to her, as my own personality has always been more reserved. I wish I had. I wish I had told her how beautiful she looked in her chosen costumes, how I admired her personal pride and grooming and how she never let life dictate her style. In the eight years that I knew her, I never heard a mean word escape her lips, a harsh look come from her kind eyes, or a word of complaint or anger spoken with her soft voice. Wherever her husband was, she was there. Wherever she was, he was there, not because they had to be or were afraid to not be lest they were scolded or rebuked, but because they wanted to be together.

She smoked her cigarettes, sipped her drinks, ate her favorite foods, told her hilarious jokes, fussed with her hair to make sure it wasn't out of place, brushed her shirt, slacks or skirt with her hand to shoo away any possible lint that might be lurking somewhere, flung her long-nailed hands about in the air with great abandon as she spoke, ate or groomed, and re-applied her dark red lipstick at each moment that it might even begin to lose its sharp, deep color. She was a dance, a miniature theater of perfect choreography, decorated like a beautiful kabuki dancer, a work of laborious, intentional art.

Now she lay in bed at the close of her life, knowing that death was only moments away. I had become one of her greatest fans and I had never taken the time to tell her.

I reached out for her hand and the cold parchment-covered bones seemed beyond fragile as I cupped it between my own warm palms. "It's good to see you looking so beautiful, Clarice," I said, trying not to cry.

"Well," she replied in her hoarse whisper, "I figure God has to see so many people who look so bad when they get there, I could at least give him something to smile about."

"Darlin', when he sees you, he's gonna wish he had been a mortal himself while you were here," I told her.

For a quick moment, the pain in her eyes was replaced by the deep kindness that was her most remarkable trademark in life. Suddenly a flash of amazing peacefulness came over her entire face and eyes and she was gone. The last sign of life escaped from her perfectly painted red lips as she seemed to whisper, "Thank you."

I cried for the privilege of knowing her. I cried for the joy of knowing she was at peace, and I cried because one of God's most decorated angels had just left us. I knew the gold lamé wings waiting for her in heaven would look perfect on her.


© Anna Marie Bangs

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