Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Elsie Flink

When I arrived at St. John's, Waterbury, in 1989, Elsie Flink was already there--well in her 80's--and had been for decades. She was born in Germany or Sweden (I don't remember) and came to this country when she was a young girl.

She had broken her leg and was sitting on the Green when the Rector of St. John's at that time, it may have been John Lewis, who was Rector for 40 years, met her and invited her to church, She came, and stayed.

She was a server in St. John's elderly lunch, serving people years younger than herself, which lasted until the soup kitchen took over the auditorium.

She was in the choir, as well. By far the oldest member.

She was feisty and argumentative, but gentle at her core. I came to love her greatly.

She'd spent decades working at one of Waterbury's watch factories. For years she painted the faces of clocks and watches. Since the  women doing that needed their brushes sharp, they would run them between their teeth, not knowing the paint, to stick to metal, has radium in it. Many of the women died young, but not Elsie! She was a 'radium girl', she would say, and show us how her clothes would lose their color after a few wearings....Amazing.

She lived in an apartment at the other end of the Green from the church, and walked, in all weather to church.

She lived to be, I think, 101.

And lived alone until her hospital stay that led to her death.


Once I was driving her somewhere and though I knew she had serious macular degeneration, she told me stories of the areas we drove through.

I realized she could see out of the side of her eyes and had perfect recall of the places we passed.

The day she died, she told me in the hospital that she would never go into a 'home'. I believed her. As I left, a social worker was coming to talk to her. I asked the social worker what she had come to say and she told me, "I want to talk with her about a nursing home".

I shook my head and smiled. "That will kill her," I said.

The social worker laughed.

When I got back to the church the phone was ringing. It was the hospital calling to let me know Elsie died while the social worker was talking with her.

True to her word--as always--Elsie did what she said she would do.

How many of us can say the same about ourselves?

After her funeral, some members of the parish and I were cleaning out her apartment--she had no family and her only brother had died in WW I! We found weird stuff--Rosicrucian books and even stranger things. I had no idea! We also found pictures and letters pointing to a long tern love relationship with another woman. Elsie, ahead of her time.

She kept her secrets well.

God bless her for that.

I loved her and still think of her.

Elsie, wherever you are, I love you.

(This blog is only my opinions and have nothing to do with the three churches I serve.)

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.