Published on January 12, 2021

Chasing the Creator

Shanti’s story: A valued friend whom I judged too quickly

By Shirley Prihoda
The Bulletin

Most women are quite comfortable quickly assessing other women. Not to leave the men nodding their heads in agreement, men are quick on this trigger too! To be honest, my batting average for “quick assessment” is something to be counted on…to be consistently wrong!

If I were a ball player with that kind of batting average, I wouldn’t be in the Majors long enough for the ink to dry on a baseball card, and the last I heard, Farm Teams don’t exactly have trading cards. Some Little Leagues teams do, but unfortunately, they have age limit requirements.

So, how on earth do I connect my poor batting average for quick assessment to finding a true friend? I am so glad you asked, because now I can tell you Shanti’s story. Shanti looked as if she was dressed for Halloween…every day. She looked like Elvira with long brown hair and makeup that would be called Goth today, but in the early 80’s, let’s just say, everyone noticed when she entered the room. The total package was somewhat overwhelming, and truthfully, she scared me.

My kids were forbidden to ride their bicycles by her house, and needlessly to say, never talk to her. It was inevitable that one day Shanti and I would come face-to-face in our small country subdivision, and I would be challenged to see the person, or the package. Somehow, I chose to get to know the person, and I am so grateful that I did.

Shanti was so alive she made everyone else seem semi-conscious. She had this unique ability to look beyond the obvious and find humor in any situation. A good example was her quick retort of what a great wax job you have on your car, just after you ran it into the garage door.

My stories often have a behind-the-scenes, and this one is no exception. Like my batting average, we feel confident in our ability to stand and face tomorrow - that is until a life-changing event makes an appearance. Such was the case for me as I watched the paramedics load my husband into a Life Flight helicopter. He was only 45 years old, and in route to a stroke center in Houston.

I don’t remember driving there or parking the car, but I do remember the haunting looks on the faces of our families when I arrived. Unexpected things have a way of piercing our armor and exposing our inner vulnerabilities. Each face had the same questioning look, “How could this have happened to a young robust fire fighter?” We sat silent and stone-faced staring at each other, as if any movement may somehow open the door for another disaster. Suddenly, the emergency room doors burst open, and Shanti entered.

The gasps were audible as she walked into the waiting area. That same look of contempt and judgment was evident on their faces. In true Shanti style, she quietly played cards and games with the children for hours and attended to any need of the family. That was Shanti. She never responded to critical judgment; she simply poured love on them.

When we were finally admitted into Intensive Care to see my husband, he excitedly shouted across the room, “Shanti, Shanti, I flew in a helicopter!” In typical Shanti style, she responded, “Did they strap you to the outside like they do in MASH?” We laughed, and it felt so good.

Six months later Shanti moved to Washington State… it was a hard day for me. It seemed the light had gone out of our subdivision and out of me. As it happens, life moved on, and we stopped communicating. I reached out several times, but she would only reply, “I can’t do long-distance relationships.” I couldn’t understand this, but I had no choice but to respect her wishes.

Thoughts of her were always just below the surface. I wrote this story in 2013 and decided to try once more to connect with her. I wanted to tell her how she had impacted my life and how her comfort and support had given me the strength to get up and face another day. Most of all, I wanted to tell her how her laughter had given me hope that tomorrow would be better.

With a little detective work, I found her phone number. My heart was racing as the line began to ring and her husband, Bill, answered the phone. My mouth seemed frozen and finally words began to form. I asked to speak to Shanti, and there was silence. Finally, Bill spoke the unbelievable words that Shanti had recently died. I felt as if I was being swept out to sea with all the unanswered questions. Bill said, “Shirley, she loved you to the end.” Words wouldn’t form, and after what seemed an eternity, I quietly thanked him and said good-bye. Where I had been swept out to sea, his words were a rescue helicopter hovering over me, offering a lifeline. I may never understand why she couldn’t do long distance relationships; it didn’t matter anymore. Now, I knew that she loved me to the end.

Our ancestors did life together, worked together, shared meals, traveled miles in covered wagons, fought wars, and buried loved ones together. Today, we have prisons and malls full of people trying to fill that emptiness, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Attempting fill that void with things is like trying to catch upchuck with a teaspoon, and I can tell you for a fact…that doesn’t work!

Shanti won Blue Ribbons at the Brazoria County Fair with this recipe.

Shanti’s Fudge
1 12 oz. Package Chocolate
1 12 oz. Package Butterscotch Chips
2 Cans Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
Combine above ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat over low heat just until melted. Stir mixture well. Add:
4 Cups Chopped Nuts
4 Cups Mini Marshmallows
Stir quickly and pour into two buttered 8 x 8 pans; chill in refrigerator for two hours to set.

(To contact Shirley, please send emails to john.bulletin@gmail.com or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)