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Never Mind… Another Emily Litella Moment

My buddy Larry LaRue sent me a heartbreaking story the other day about Judith Permar, a 56-year-old Pennsylvania woman, who died tragically donating old clothes to charity.

Mrs. Judith Permar (Facebook Photo)

According to the story, Mrs. Permar, 56, was dropping off some old clothes at a donation bin in Mount Carmel Township, when the stool she was standing on – Mrs. Permar was apparently short – collapsed and left her dangling from the bin for six hours. They found her the next morning with a broken arm and hand, still hanging from the bin, her feet off the ground and her black Hummer still idling nearby.

Cause of death was blunt-force trauma and possibly hyperthermia – the night was quite chilly.

My first thought, frankly, was that no good deed goes unpunished, but that seemed both cynical and harsh. The real lesson, I decided, was that as horrible as her death may have been, she died doing something nice for others. There are many ways to die. Plane crashes, car accidents, homicides, heart attacks, pneumonia, and cancer – none of them pleasant. Even dying in your sleep is not that great. You wait decades for that famous final scene, and then when it comes, you’re snoozing.

At least when Mrs. Permar died, she was doing something kind for others – an act of charity that had to take some of the sting out of her passing.

I worked for newspapers for many years, but apparently I learned nothing. I am ashamed to admit that somewhere along the line I lost that cynical edge that helps reporters see through the bull and get to the truth.

According to the follow-up story, the very next day, Mrs. Permar didn’t die donating old clothes to the needy. She died stealing old clothes from the bin for who knows what reason. That’s why she had the stool, so she could reach all the way into the bin to grab the bags of clothes that others had donated.

Wow, that does put a different spin on the story, but I will resist the temptation to judge Mrs. Permar too harshly. We know from the first story that she was an animal lover. Perhaps she was getting old raggedy clothes to help some of our four-legged friends survive the cold. Maybe she was going to return the other, good clothes back to the bin after she took out the rags. Or maybe not.

Either way, it’s not exactly the crime of the century.  I certainly don’t think it’s going to keep her out of heaven – and if God is not going to judge her too harshly, why should we. Maybe she was just a whacky, funny mother and wife who once in a while, did some crazy stuff.

I know women like that. In fact, I’m married to a woman like that. I don’t think she ever stole stuff from a donation bin, but she has done some funny and probably slightly illegal stuff just to make me laugh. And I did. I laughed like crazy.

I don’t think any of that stuff is going to keep her out of heaven. Me, on the other hand, I’m going to probably have some explaining to do and maybe a few promises to clean up my act before I get past those pearly gates.

I hope if and when I do, I get to say hello to Mrs. Permar. I’m sure she’s probably a fun gal.

By the way, if any of you folks don’t know who Emily Litella is, it probably means you are less than 50 years old. Emily Litella was a cultural icon 40 years ago and here is a sample. CLICK HERE

—  George Lee Cunningham