The mark of a good life is that there's as much laughter at the memorial services as there are tears. Today, at the funeral of my dear family friend, there was a lot of both. Mrs. Stoffel had left her mark on everybody around her, and the reminiscences came fast and thick. At the wake, I had summed up her personality in six words: unstinting hospitality, boundless generosity, and devastating candor. Add a wicked wit, and a stoicism in the face of adversity to those characteristics, and you have a good idea of her character. She was a woman who was impossible to embarass (much to the chagrin of her children)... she had no problem asking strangers for directions or advice. She'd approach anybody and strike up a conversation, truly embodying the "strangers are just friends you haven't met" outlook.
She never pulled her punches, although she was never mean-spirited. She told her kids to "always call a spade a bloody shovel!" One could never harbor any illusions while in her company. If you were dressed like a slob, she'd tell you, "You look like a hobo." If you were acting like an idiot, she'd let you know. My friend George told us that she once chided him, "I love you, but you're a bastard!"
Her eldest child, John, came down to help her out every weekend since Christmas... he related how she took bad news from her doctors in the same way that she would a weather report, with a joke and that famous stiff upper lip. She had the gracious resignation of a person who had nothing to lose- she'd traveled the world (she worked for years as a travel agent), and she had seen her children start families of their own. She lived well, and she went bravely.
Mrs. Stoffel and I always joked about belonging to a mutual admiration society. We got along famously. I'll miss her terribly.