Sometimes work and your personal life intersect in a big way.
I wrote "A Life Remembered" for The News-Gazette about a woman named Erma Tyler, who died Saturday. She wasn't rich or famous, just one of those extraordinary everyday people you come across once in a while, who helped lots of other people in her 73 years.
We got to know Miss Erma when my son started kindergarten. She was the crossing guard between our house and South Side School, and she was one of a kind.
She was friendly to any child who crossed her path, and extra-nice to those she knew well. She'd bring them treats on holidays and small gifts on their birthdays -- for my son, a gift card to Dunkin' Donuts, winning his everlasting affection. She'd comment on my daughter's pink and purple outfits, ask about my son's trips with his dad, and make sure we were all OK.
Even while she battled health problems, she was always sunny and optimistic. Ask how she was, and she'd always say, "I'm blessed, how about you?" On those crazy mornings when we were rushing around, trying to make it to school before the first bell and wondering how we were going to pack everything in that day, she was a moment of calm and grace.
This year, I'd sometimes let my fourth-grade son walk ahead on his own, knowing Miss Erma would get him to school safely.
We're still adjusting to not seeing her every morning. With their own grandmothers far away, my children and others saw Miss Erma as a kind of surrogate. As you'll read in the story, it's a role she played for lots of other people across town.
Last night, my daughter and I were headed to Miss Erma's house to drop off a card and flowers to her family. We didn't make it. Somehow, I ran over a coat hanger (!) and punched a hole in the tire, so we had to get it repaired. We'll try again today.
Meanwhile, things are awfully quiet on Miss Erma's corner.