Sometimes people pass away suddenly, sometimes you know in advance that their remaining time is short. We've had several years to prepare for losing Mrs. Evans, which doesn't make her passing any easier.
Judy Evans has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. She and her husband Al are my mom's remaining ties to her Stanford years, where she introduced the two to each other. My mom knew to set aside a long time when she called to chat (conversations lasting hours were not unusual) because she and Mrs. Evans would progress from what's happening to reminiscing and back again.
There was a similar dynamic whenever they got together. My mom and Mrs. Evans would chatter away while Mr. Evans would sit to the side and listen, interjecting a comment here and there.
Mrs. Evans had a flair for telling stories. Once she was describing taking photographs for her wedding, and at one point she was standing on some grass. She realized that she was getting itchy, and felt a crunching sensation when she pressed the waist of her dress against herself. At this point she would mime the motion while wrenching her face, delivering the punch line that the lawn was teeming with ants which had crawled under her dress.
I'll always associate Mrs. Evans with their home. The vast majority of the times I saw her would have been in Saratoga. Dogs and cats changed over the years, but I've never known them to have a house without pets.
Sewing projects were always in progress. The refrigerator was packed (literally; it would often take several minutes of removing and replacing things to get to something buried towards the back).
Being quite tall, Mrs. Evans always felt the countertops in her kitchen were too low. When the kitchen was remodeled, the countertops went a few inches higher.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Evans started having health problems at about the time the kitchen remodel was complete, so she never really got to use it. She was then diagnosed with ALS, which explained several things, including why she had trouble steadying her hands.
When she got to the point where she couldn't walk, they had a chair lift installed into their stairway. Whenever we would stop by, she would chuckle and ask if we wanted to take it for a spin. Which was just like her; even with health problems, she would face things head-on and not be afraid to see the lighter side of things.
We had the opportunity to go see her in March; the trip was quickly planned because we suspected time was short. It was a good thing we did, since she passed away about a month later. The memorial service was this weekend, and it was comforting to be able to say a final goodbye. You felt her in the service, when the reverend said she wanted people to know that her ALS is something that just happened to her, rather than being a judgement of her. You saw it in her favorite foods which were served afterwards. You carried a piece of her when you took one of the many orchids home with you (she had several all around her house).
My fondest memory of Mrs. Evans was when I was pretty young (no older than early teens). My parents and I were staying in their home, and one morning she and I were the first people downstairs. For some reason we were talking about Ajinomoto (probably about the time my mom accidentally put out that instead of sugar when serving coffee), and I started to explain that it was MSG. She said that she knew about it, and said that she used to see ads on TV when in Hawaii, then sang, “A-ji, A-ji, A-ji-no-mo-to.” After that, she smiled to herself at the memory. From that moment on, I knew she wasn't just my mom's friend, she was mine, too.