Ella is an open book, or as strong as a rock, or as gentle as a jewel. You should have seen her the other night, around dusk. She was sitting on the porch in a lawn chair, wearing a beautiful peridot-colored sundress, like spring and summer at the same time.
Peridot, which can be pronounced “peridoe (like the female deer),” is the birthstone for the month of August, which is Ella’s birthday month. Lots of things can be learned about peridot, like from the Oxford Dictionary on-line, which says peridot is a mineral made of magnesium and iron and other elements, from igneous (volcanic) rocks or from metamorphic rocks, which have changed over time from heat and pressure.
Ella is like that, so strong against all the elements that assault her life, day and night. In a way, Ella is Everywoman. She’s been through nearly all of it. We know and don’t know the details. But Ella is still a clear spring green like peridot, the way she loves to dance and sing and talk to people and just live life the best way she can, sometimes wearing a summer dress, with that gracious breeze touching everything with an aching elegance.
Ella laughs. She loves to laugh. She’s almost 74 years old and she can still light up a room in a peridot dress or one with silver sequins but mostly with her smile, with her courage, sometimes with her tears because life hurts so much sometimes.
Ella never gives up on a chance for joy, even when she can’t sleep or can’t find a ride or can’t get the ride to find her, because she lives at the front of the building but the identifying numbers are at the back. Ella finds a way, even if she has to mark her place with red silk roses from an anonymous friend.
Ella has many friends. We went to church the other night to hear the Roaring 50s sing that Old Time Religion and Ella knew more people in that church than maybe some of the members. She smiled and greeted everybody she knew. She didn’t leave anybody out.
Before we heard the music (and Ella loves music), Ella and I went to a little Bible study group at that church. Unexpectedly, she asked to sing. With a strong clear soft voice, Ella sang a song about how she was grateful for a roof over her head and for food on the table and not much else but Jesus. We believed her because we could tell she meant it.
When Ella sang that song, her eyes welled up and it sounds like I’m making this up, but I cried with that aching elegance. That song came from her heart and somebody in the back of the group said everybody got the gift of tears from Ella that night. God moves in mysterious ways. We went to church to hear that Old Time Religion, but first, Ella sang. The joy broke our hearts right open.