She wore high heels and fancy hats, and left the synagogue when the rabbi spoke, even though she liked the rabbi and knew him for a good speaker, but that's what she did. And her sense of humor was dry and caustic, and if she wasn't a friend, she was still a major part of things, a part of the congregation just like her husband. And she, of course, has friends, too.
But on Rosh HaShanah, a time when everyone dresses up a touch more, she wore flats - simple loafers with low heels, and other things were different. But she's an acquaintance, not a friend. There are things one doesn't ask.
And it was hard to hear the dry humor, the caustic wit because her speech changed, too - it became thick and hard to understand. Her face, her hands - something was off, but neither side seemed stiffer, less responsive than the other. Still, the whispers went around. "Stroke? Could that be it? It got her speech and her balance, but she's young. It's bad but people recover from strokes, especially small ones."
But she's an acquaintance, not a friend. But she has friends, and so those who were not friends asked those who were. And the whispers went round again, but this time they hurt more. "ALS. Lou Gehrig's. Five years. Maybe." And the hope that it was just a stroke, just a bad luck thing that, given time and work and stubborness, would end someday - it's hard thing to let go, even for someone who is not, quite, a friend.
And there is nothing to be done but be grateful the synagogue is accessible in all ways, so she can keep coming as long as she can. And pray for miracles.