After all the death I experienced last year, my 2014 had been going along rather well until Wednesday. I've managed to make it two and a half months without a trip to the funeral home; but, I'm sad to say that streak is going to come to an end this Saturday.
Monday morning when I got into work, I read the email blast from the church I used to attend and saw that Jim and Irma Steelman had been in a car accident the day before. The accident took place as they were driving to church and Irma had sustained a broken jaw and some other injuries, and Jim had a few scrapes and scratches, but nothing serious. On Tuesday, Irma had surgery and all went well according to the folks I've talked to. Wednesday afternoon a special email came through saying that Irma's heart rate had dropped and she was moved to SICU. I don't know what it was about that email, but as soon as I read it, my heart sank and I knew that she wasn't going to pull through.
I left work, went to the chiropractor and headed home to eat some dinner and watch the news before heading out to church for the night. I was running late and I looked at my phone as I was walking out the door. I had a text from my friend Candy letting me know that Irma had died. I was immediately overcome with emotion and my heart was full of sadness. I called my dad to let him know and later called some others because I know I like to hear this kind of news from someone I love rather than read about it in a news blast.
Irma was no doubt, one of the top five most influential people in my life. I have known her since I came into this world. My mother has known her since she was in junior high school and Irma was her PE teacher. My dad has known Irma since he was in high school. To say she has been a big part of our lives is an understatement.
Today, I want to share with you, in no particular order, some of the things I will always remember and admire about Irma.
She had arthritic fingers which were bent and swollen but her hands were always working, always doing for others, never resting.
She went on countless mission trips ( here and in Mexico) and door knocking campaigns, always working to bring people to the Lord
She had a recipe for a one egg cake. This used to always make me laugh and she loved that it made me laugh as we have laughed over the one egg cake together too many times to count. It was her mother's recipe from the depression when eggs were scarce. The cake could be made in various flavors, but Irma always made it as a cherry cake with whipped cream icing and she always had it readily available at Christmastime.
Speaking of Christmas, I'm inclined to think it was Irma's favorite holiday. She began decorating the outside and inside of her house well before December 1. She always hosted the Ladies' Night Out Christmas Party for me and used to tell people that I told her she had to have everything decorated before the party. She gave me a hard time about this and it became a joke of ours. She loved Santa Claus and had numerous Santas displayed throughout her house. Upstairs she kept her Christmas Village with the felt snow. Christmas will not be the same without a trip to Irma's.
She made the absolute best strawberry cake anyone has ever put in their mouth. It's the same recipe I use, but she used strawberries that she had put up and the color of her cake was always such a deep pink. People used to fight over her cake and I've seen grown men grab a fork and scrape the crumbs from the cake plate. I used to request that she make it for me from time to time and she never turned me down.
Irma was a fantastic teacher. She was first my teacher when I was in third or fourth grade and she taught with Nancy Kelly. It was one of the best classes of my childhood at church. Later on she taught me again in junior high school and used to warn us girls about "boys in tight blue jeans" and warned us of the perils of pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancy. In my adult life, I never missed a Ladies Class that she taught. She was full of knowledge and wisdom and I loved the sound of her voice and her present day applications from the Bible. She is probably the number one reason I began teaching ladies' classes and am leading women's Bible study now.
When she wasn't teaching Ladies' Class, she was sitting on the front row and if I wasn't teaching, my seat was right beside hers and believe me, I got upset if someone stole my seat beside Irma.
Smell is probably my most keen sense and Irma's smell was a comfort to me. I must have asked her 1,000 times what the name of her perfume was and to this day I still couldn't tell you, but I can assure you that when I smell it again I will always be reminded of Irma and the love I had for her.
Irma has been my confidant more times than I can count. I have relied on her for advice, for a shoulder to cry on and for a hand to hold.
She gave out hugs freely and without prejudice.
Her mission was people and she cared for them with fervor and love, just like Jesus. She was always providing for those in need.
She was a school secretary and saw too many children neglected and abused and she went out of her way to make those children feel special and loved.
She was one of my biggest champions and supported me all the years I headed up Ladies' Night Out. She hosted, she dressed up at Halloween, she encouraged and prayed.
She was so good about sending people cards. I loved opening the mailbox and finding a card with her handwriting on it. I have no doubt she sent out thousands of cards over the years.
She started the Ladies' Breakfast at church and headed it up for 30 years or so. She wrote a poem each year for the breakfast and one of my proudest moments was when she asked me to lead a prayer at the breakfast a few years ago.
It always gave me a chuckle how when we had Ladies Night Out at her house and we were done eating, she would holler up the stairs at Jim so he would come down and gather up the chairs and tables.
She served on the board of Agape and took up a collection in class each week for the organization. Each year at Christmas she organized a drive to raise money so we could help some of the Agape children have a nice Christmas.
I've sat by her side as we've sang at funerals and she sang at my granddad's funeral last January. I will miss hearing her voice at times like these.
I could probably go on for days about how amazing of a person Irma was and how special she was to me. I am having a hard time grasping the fact that I will never see her again, smell her, or hear her voice. I think it goes without saying that she will be immeasurably missed. If ever there was a Proverbs 31 woman, it was Irma Steelman. Her price was indeed far above rubies. This earth lost a giant, and I lost a hero, but heaven gained an angel and Irma undoubtedly has gained her reward.