At 85, every day can bring challenges. One recent day was so hard, it took a few angels to help Patricia Browning make it through.
Those angels are everyday people, the Everett woman said Monday. They are good Samaritans whose acts of kindness meant more than they could possibly know.
April 25 was a not-so-ordinary Thursday for the widow and retired hospital employee. She had been to a doctor’s appointment when she received a call. The news was terrible.
Browning’s daughter, Leslie Newman, was calling to let her mother know that another daughter, 65-year-old Peggy Strain, was starting hospice care. Strain, of Bonney Lake, battled breast cancer years ago. An advanced stage of the disease had returned.
Headed home, near the intersection of Evergreen Way and Everett Mall Way, Browning’s car “rumbled and bumped” so badly she thought her engine was falling out. Her 1978 Chevy Malibu Classic, a car she loves, once belonged to her aunt. “She drove it off the showroom floor,” Browning said.
“When I got out of the car, tears were rolling,” she said. Fortunate to be in the curbside lane, she saw that one tire was shredded. In heavy traffic, from the other side of Evergreen Way, she heard a shout: “Do you need help?”
“It was a young African-American man,” said Browning, who recalled him crossing the busy roadway and asking if she had a spare. He changed her tire and refused payment, but Browning said she stuck $10 in his pocket. She learned only what the helper told her: His name, Avery, and that he lives on Casino Road.
“I wish I knew Avery’s last name,” she said, “so I could thank him.”
There were more angels, she said, at a Les Schwab Tire Center, the one on Evergreen Way in south Everett. Browning said a special deal, offered after she mentioned needing a “payment plan,” and kind treatment bolstered her faith in the goodness of people.
With two new tires, and hungry by then, she stopped for an early dinner. She was still reeling from news of her daughter needing end-of-life care.
In 2009, Browning had lost another one of her four daughters, Kathleen Everson. Kathy, who was developmentally disabled, was just 45 when she died. “She was a love,” said Browning, who shared pictures and mementos of Everson’s participation in Special Olympics and of her memorial. Her ashes were scattered from an Edmonds ferry.
Browning was raised in Seattle, where she attended Catholic schools. One of six children, she remembers learning to drive in her father’s 1938 LaSalle.
She worked 15 years at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Pacific campus. As an emergency department admitting supervisor, she helped people during their times of anxiety and pain. “It was a challenge every day, and I loved it,” she said.
On Monday, she talked about one more angel she met that April day. Her dinner stop was Avocados Mexican Restaurant on Evergreen, where she ordered a child’s meal. She was surprised when a server — she said his name was Jaime — stopped at her table. Recognizing what she described as “my stressful state,” Browning said the waiter sat down with her.
“He took the time to talk to me,” she said. Asked if he’d taken a class in how to treat people, especially the elderly, Browning said he told her his lessons came from his mother and grandmother. The next day, she brought him a thank-you basket, with fruit and freshly baked cookies.
Browning’s daughter Peggy died Friday. At home Monday, the grieving mother remembered a time when she and Peggy were browsing at an Auburn street fair. “A man there did wood carvings. She bought one, a little trinket. It was a dollar, but she gave him $5,” Browning said. “She was the kindest.”
She sees many people as angels. There was a Fred Meyer clerk who fetched her glasses when she couldn’t walk all the way back to her car to get them. Another, a neighbor, carried Peggy into her home the day of her daughter’s last visit.
“All the way, there were blessings,” Browning said.
With small but significant acts, those people are telling us something: Be an angel, too.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.