Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The library loses a patron

A regular user of The Urbana Free Library died last week. We weren't surprised when the first notice appeared in the paper -- we knew she had been ill and we had not heard from her recently, whereas once she had been one of our most persistent callers. Though I had spoken with her so many times, I knew very little of her story and was thus anxious to see the full obituary.

That came the next day. Just one sentence had been added: There will be no services.

Our relationship with this woman was not all sunshine. She was often querulous and impatient; she frequently asked for telephone numbers and had an aggravating habit of quickly losing the slips of paper that she wrote them down on. I know I'm not the only staff member whose heart sometimes sank upon hearing her voice. Still, we actually like to serve here: We're happy to be at least one resource for those who lack them. We knew she was often alone and as the calls started coming from a hospital room as often as from her home, we knew her health was deteriorating. A note of fear crept into her voice. She always said thank you and sometimes called me "dear."

The last time I heard her voice it was close to Christmas and she called to arrange pick-up of a gift she had for our Homebound Services Coordinator. It was, she assured me, a wonderful gift, a gift worth a special trip.

We're very protective of our patrons here; their right to privacy is paramount. But this woman's story has already been lost. Let us at least honor her with a name:

Bettina Chapman


Rest in Peace

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