She was the kind of broad I aspire to be.
I met her at the end of her life, when time had blunted some of her sharp edges, but her incredible intelligence still shone through. We talked, but it wasn't like the conversations I've had with other hospice patients . . . there wasn't much chit-chat with her, oh no. During our first conversation we talked about how deja vue is actually a disturbance in the temporal lobe of the brain.
That was the shape of things to come.
She was incredibly intelligent, but she grew up in a time when it wasn't socially acceptable for women to hold jobs outside of the home. They were expected to be housewives, and if they DID have jobs they were supposed to be clerical in nature. Teaching was the most skilled profession women were allowed to have.
So, she taught. However, she did it in her own way. She majored in Chemistry and Physics - both traditionally male subjects - and she taught first to High School students, then when she'd gone to graduate school and attained a PhD, she taught college students.
She said that she never saw her gender as a hinderance, that she saw it was a weapon to be deployed when she needed to use it. Her family showed me photographs of her when she was in her prime, and man alive was she ever hot. Smoking hot, to be exact. I can imagine her using her body and appearance to break down the walls that her gender created. I admire her for doing that, for not taking no for an answer and for working with what she had to get to where she wanted to be.
She married and had babies, but she still taught, right up until she was in her 70's. When she retired, she enrolled in some graduate classes and was very proud of the fact that she was 40 years older than some of the other students.
Usually there is a great deal of talk about the spiritual and supernatural at the end of a person's life, but she, in her typical style, would not entertain or tolerate what she described as 'nonsensical mumbo-jumbo'. She said that she was perfectly comfortable with the knowledge that life was all there is and that she didn't want any tears or talk of having gone to a better place. "I've done what I wanted to to and I've made my mark" she said "that's enough for me".
Time wore her down; it aged her body but her mind was still there. When she couldn't read texts because she couldn't see the words, she had someone dictate them to audio tapes and she listened to them instead. It seemed as if her headphones were permanently attached to her head; she was wearing them every time I saw her.
She died very quietly and peacefully after having lived for a century. She donated her body to a medical facility, which I find fitting: she loved science and in the end she literally gave herself to her cause.
Against her wishes, I cried.