Mrs. Pugh was the mother of a boy in my grade school. The boy was a year older, but my sister and Mrs. Pugh’s daughter were the same age, and were in girl scouts together. We all went to the same church, and that’s where I remember her most.
She always greeted our family when she saw us in church; she seemed to make it her job to welcome us every week. She was amazingly consistent: always with a smile, always with a kind word to say.
My strongest memory of Mrs. Pugh was, ironically enough, when I withdrew my membership from the church. I had graduated from college and wasn’t attending there anymore; I thought that telling them would be the right thing to do. The church had over 7,000 members at the time, so I figured one more or less wouldn’t make much of a difference, but I went ahead and did it anyway.
The next time I saw Mrs. Pugh, I was visiting the church with my parents. She made a beeline to me and said she noticed that I was no longer a member. 7,000 people on the roll and she sought me out! She said she was sorry to see me go, but understood that I was moving on, and that I’d always be welcome. She said she’d miss me! Thousands of people walk through those doors every week, and yet she’d miss me.
That was over 20 years ago, and I saw her occasionally since that time, as I’d visit the church with my parents, or bring my own kids to the annual ice cream social. She was always so welcoming, so glad to see me.
Mrs. Pugh passed away last week, finally losing her battle with cancer. Her obituary (here) doesn’t do her justice. She taught me the power of saying hello, and also the power of saying good-bye.
I said good-bye to her on that day 20 years ago, but I knew that I’d see her again, and that she would welcome me. Today is no different. Today I’ll attend her memorial service. I’ll say good-bye to Mrs. Pugh, but I know I’ll see her again. And I know I’ll be welcome.