Saturday, May 03, 2008


Last night I found out that a remarkable woman that I knew, Mary Coffman, passed away suddenly. I knew Mary and her equally remarkable daughter Elizabeth from working at the Blue Kangaroo Bookstore. Mary and Elizabeth were much much more than customers, though. We shared a kind of friendship that C.S. Lewis refers to in The Four Loves : when you realize that someone else loves the same books you do and you think to yourself "I thought I was the only one!" Lewis tells a story about when he became friends with his neighbor Arthur in Surprised by Joy:

"I found Arthur sitting up in bed. On the table beside him lay a copy of Myths of the Norsemen.
Do you like that?' said I.
you like that?' said he.
"Next moment the book was in our hands, our heads were bent close together, we were pointing, quoting, talking - soon almost shouting - discovering in a torrent of questions that we liked not only the same thing, but the same parts of it and in the same way."

Even though I moved away, Elizabeth and I have still e-mailed about good books, or upcoming movies-made-from-books. We have come from American Girl to Narnia to Harry Potter to Edith Nesbit and George MacDonald. I have always loved how she was immediately willing to discuss a book! Even though Elizabeth is eleven, we have shared the bond of reading.

Last summer, when Mary and Elizabeth came to visit me, and we went out to eat at Lynn's Paradise Cafe (spending a good long time in "the world of swirl" as you might imagine). I was so intrigued to watch
Mary lay good questions out on the table. We were all sharing what we hoped would come through in the final Harry Potter book, and when Elizabeth expressed an especially vengeful wish toward Malfoy, Mary gently returned a rather C.S. Lewis-ish response: "But Elizabeth, wouldn't you rather see him turn to good? A traitor may mend." (Edmund's remark to Eustace when he has just become un-dragoned in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.) I was always so touched by Mary's friendship with her daughter. Elizabeth is indeed a unique and wonderful child -- one I am blessed to know, and hope to know more as she grows into a young woman.

Elizabeth -- you are in my thoughts and prayers!


Paul Fuller said...

Mary was "Mrs. Coffman" to me. I had her for both of my writing classes at DACC. Unlike most of the members of my class, I really enjoyed learning under her tutelage.

But I will most remember Mary from my Introduction to Film class. Mary opened my eyes to the art of cinematography like I had never seen before. She was so passionate about teaching and life!

....t said...

Gret. i was so sorry to hear about the passing of Mrs. Coffman. i met her when i was working as Health Service Coordinator at DACC. She seemed to be such a kind soul. i am so glad that you had the opportunity to build a relationship with her daughter. Her daughter will have many needs that someone like you can minister to....t

Name: Karen said...

What a sweet post. We will be praying for young Elizabeth.


Emily said...

beautiful post. I loved Mrs. Coffman so much. I LOVED my literature class so much. I enjoyed my homework and everything, and if I would have spent more time at DACC, I would have taken her classes, just because she taught them. ;)

Elizabeth is so sweet, she was my favorite in American Girl, cause she didn't just like the dolls, she liked the books too! :)

Remeber how in HP club, we'ed like look at each other and laugh at the major intelligent things that Elizabeth would say that we were way beyond her age. :)