Cotty Kale did not look like the kind of lady who could eat cheeseburgers and hot fudge sundaes. She was tiny, with delicate bones and enormous brown eyes that looked right through you.
She was my mother's friend, but somehow I never thought of her as a grown-up. I met her when I was 14, and was already bigger than she was. She talked to me like we were the same age, making funny little comments and listening to me like I was the most interesting person she'd ever met.
When my parents went out of town and Cotty popped in, I thought she was just coming to visit me. And even though I was surreptitiously packing up to go out of town with my boyfriend, I was thrilled to see her. She asked what we were doing and I told her the truth.
She didn't look shocked at the idea of two high school kids packing up contraband and heading for sure trouble. She just looked at me with her brown eyes that never, ever judged and then cocked her head to the side.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," she said simply. "It might be better if you didn't do that this weekend."
We didn't go.
In hindsight, I know my mother asked her to check in on me. Make sure I wasn't getting into trouble. But truly this didn't occur to me until I had my own teenagers and enlisted the help of my friends to keep them on the straight and narrow.
I think this says a lot about Cotty Kale. Not just that I didn't know she was ordered by my mother to drop by, but that I took her advice.
I was blessed by this little lady. I was fortunate enough to enjoy her company for many lunches with some of my mother's other friends who I consider to be my own friends. Cotty always had seconds, no matter what I was serving.
At one birthday lunch for my mother, my gift was a bird clock from Walgreens. Not my best present to her, but I was busy cooking. My siblings presented her with an art book by one of her college professors. My mother was so moved she began to weep at the table, awed by the thoughtfulness and importance of this gift.
Cotty Kale immediately picked up the pitiful bird clock and passed it around the table, noting that she'd always wanted to hear an owl hoot three times at 3:00.
I saved all of her letters. She wrote to me after every luncheon I hosted. She encouraged me when I needed hope and she made me feel special. Always.
One star, the sun, makes the world go around. Tie people together, keeps love tight and people laughing. You are the sun and the moon and the stars, and you are one of God's most blessed. We'll never be able to thank you enough.
Cotty Kale was tiny, but she leaves a great big hole in this world.