Life has a way of placing people in our paths that somehow enrich us.
I've learned that everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes those stories affect us in ways we can't imagine.
Like Laura, who will forever be known to me as the Purple Lady.
I met Laura in San Antonio at the conference I attended. We had sat next to each other a few times and chit-chatted off and on.
The last day of the conference, I found myself standing in line with Laura as we waited for a water taxi along the Riverwalk. We started chatting about the conference when I finally made an observation.
"You wear a lot of purple, don't you?" I asked.
"Yes I do. In fact, I wear nothing but purple," she said.
With that statement, everyone around us began to pay attention.
"I'm known as the Purple Lady," she smiled.
She told us that one day in 1996, she made a discovery about herself. She was wearing a purple blouse and noticed she smiled all day. The more she thought back to when she had worn purple, she realized she always felt the same way.
"Wearing purple made me happy. From that day on, I wear only purple every day."
She wears purple glasses, purple shoes, purses, earrings and of course, her wardrobe is various shades of purple.
"Its fun. I have a great time with it. People in my hometown call me the Purple Lady. It's a great conversation starter. And it makes gift buying for me so easy," she laughed.
Then there's Pauline.
I had met Pauline through her daughter, Chris, a friend of ours.
Pauline always smiled, a very pleasant lady. We learned we shared a love of crafting. Whenever I saw Pauline, I always commented on her beautiful jewelry. There was usually a little story that accompanied each piece I admired.
So I was very saddened when I learned she had suddenly passed away, at the early age of 69.
My sister and I attended her funeral, more in support for our friend Chris and her family.
Her pastor asked if anyone would like to come forward and say a few words about Pauline.
Pauline's five grandsons each got up and spoke eloquently about their "Gram." Their stories brought lots of smiles and nods of agreement to the wonderful anecdotes her boys told of her humor and sense of adventure.
But for those who knew her only slightly, the comments provided insight to one really cool lady.
One time when all the grandsons were visiting, Gram had heard them talk about how much they liked Rita's. One day she loaded them up in the car and told them she was taking them someplace special for lunch. No matter how much they begged, she wouldn't tell them where they were going. She said it was a surprise. When they pulled into the parking lot at Rita's, it was indeed a surprise.
The boys tried to tell her Rita's didn't serve sandwiches but she didn't believe them. She marched them up to the window and started to order burgers and fries. When she finally understood that Rita's only served Italian ice and ice cream, it didn't faze her at all.
"Gram, being who she was, let us have dessert first."
Cody talked about when his Gram and him went parasailing last summer.
All the other family members had gone except him and Gram. Cody, who is afraid of heights, woke up the next morning feeling like maybe he shouldn't go through with it. But there was his Gram telling him not to be a baby about it. She told him if he would go, she would too. Cody said the only reason he went was because she made him feel secure, just like she did in everything.
As they were standing on the dock, she looked over at him, sensed his unease and said, "Hold my hand. It will be OK." He did and it was. He said they both loved every minute of it.
When the boat guy brought them down for them to dip their feet in the water, Gram got a little more than her feet wet.
"Gram said something very funny. But I can't repeat it," Cody said and the whole congregation laughed heartily because by now, even for those of us who didn't know Pauline that well, we certainly had formed a picture of this wonderfully vibrant fun-loving woman who enjoyed life and all it had to offer.
OK. I don't plan on becoming a Purple Lady, nor a Pink, Blue or Yellow Lady. But meeting and talking to Laura, I admired how she isn't afraid to express herself as an individual. She has given herself permission to do something that makes her happy, no matter how many labels people put on her.
And maybe I will never have the courage to go parasailing. But after learning about Pauline's openness to what life offers, to not worry about what is expected of you, her message is one I can take to heart. Because I don't ever want to close myself off to the possibilities that may come my way, no matter what my age.
And that includes having dessert first, if I want to.