Friday, May 27, 2016

Sybil Niemann, Rest in Peace

So this is the post I either missed or didn't want to consider last July...

At the time, I had just returned from visiting my mother who was dying of late-stage cancer. Honestly, I don't remember if I read Sybil's post or not. I just remember some of her more recent posts about her illness and how it was keeping her from one of her loves, and that is Facebook. It's how we stayed connected.

You see, I had met Sybil on a Gibson County (IN) message board, a forum where we discussed everything from corn and melons to family history to politics. I originally joined the forum to discuss my genealogical pursuits in the county of my birth. Sybil and I hit it off right away. We shared a similar worldview and sarcastic sense of humor. I would private message her to make comments I wouldn't otherwise make on the forum, especially when it came to other users.

From that conversation, we became Facebook friends, and though I wouldn't meet her in person for a couple of years, I felt a keen connection to her. It was as if we came from the same stock. She was of my parents' generation and grew up just up the road from them in Patoka, Indiana. I was born in Princeton, where my parents were raised. My roots go back to pioneer times in Knox and Gibson counties, so that's why I had originally joined the forum where I first met Sybil.

She was very young at heart and seemed to connect easily with those of us younger than her. That's probably why she was such a good teacher at IU's School of Dentistry.

On Facebook, she would post of her simple life in Speedway, Indiana, where she had retired and lived with her two Jack Russell Terriers. And through that medium, she introduced me to the "rock smiley" and her friend in California, Lisa Albanese. Lisa and I became Facebook friends through our mutual love of Sybil and her youthful persona. I knew from following Sybil online that she frequented Charlie Brown's a longstanding eatery in the heart of Speedway.

So on a visit to my parents' house in the summer of 2014, I finally got the chance to go meet Sybil at Charlie Brown's for lunch. I arrived just as she came riding up on her tricycle, adorned with spinning wheels, American and checkered flags and a personalized Indiana license plate. I found her to be just as charming and warm in person as she was on the Internet.

We communicated quite regularly through early 2015. In fact, it was spring the previous year when she learned of my love of percolated coffee and without even a passing second thought, sent me a percolator she no longer used along with a rock smiley she had made. Her generosity struck a chord in me and I reciprocated with a hand-written thank you note. I think my daughters ended up with the rock smiley. My oldest thought it was so cool, she painted an old, black guitar pick with pink nail polish making a pick smiley of her own design. I posted a pic of it as a comment to Sybil's post of my thank you card back in May 2014. I still have the Farberware percolator she sent me.

But somehow, we sort of fell out of contact. You know how life has a way of interfering. I was focused on spending as much time with my mom as I could, making three trips up to Cicero, IN, to see her last year. During that time is when Sybil learned of her own cancer.

When she learned of my mom's cancer, unaware that my parents were still together and able to get around okay, she offered assistance in getting my mom to and from her appointments. She didn't want my mother to deal with any of it alone. I assured her that my dad had those bases covered, but I really appreciated her selflessness when she had never even met my mother. That and the gift endeared her to me, as did her wisdom and worldliness.

I'll never forget Sybil Niemann's thoughtfulness, friendliness or her indomitable spirit. Even cancer couldn't keep her down when it was ravaging her body. She was such a stellar human being. I was quite shocked when I just learned today, 15 days late, of her passing. It's bothered me greatly all afternoon...more because of my ignorance and neglect of our friendship, than anything else.

I needed to get this down in a blog post, so that I could begin to get past it. I feel really awful for her precious dogs, for her sons and their families and for the world at large. We lost one of our everyday angels, but the heavens gained a bright-shining star.

Rest in peace, my sweet friend. (Her obituary from Colvin Funeral Home).