A: Age – 78 ½. Favorite ages: 35– after doing miserably in college, I went back finally actually wanting to learn and got my degree Summa Cum Laude. 60 – Took up painting and loved it. 75 –started my blog and did my first stand-up comedy gigs.
B: Biggest Fear – Losing my voice. Stopped smoking cold turkey after 3+ packs a day for 28 years after noticing a lump in my throat. Fear of death never motivated me, but the possibility of not being able to talk did. 🙂 C: Current Time:– 11 pm. Should be sleepy since I woke up at 5 am and never got back to sleep.
D: Drink I Last Had – A Sprite Zero, no caffeine, no sugar, why do I even bother?
E: Easiest Person to Talk To: Myra, my best friend from high school and college. We’ve stayed connected across long distances for 59 years by mail, phone, a few visits and for the last 15 years by face-book and e-mail. My husband is the easiest person to just be with, without talking.
F: Favorite Song – Dream, Dream, Dream by the Everly Brothers. It was my husband’s and my song when dating in college. (Our teen-age daughter was very outraged when she found that out, because it was her and her guitar playing boyfriend’s song. 🙂
G: Grossest Memory – Had an unexpected visit from a General , who was a friend of my husband’s family in another state. As our toddler was running back and forth in the living room, I nervously served coffee from our seldom used silver tea service. I realized to my horror that he was dropping small balls of poo all around the coffee table. I grabbed him under my left arm while scooping them up as quickly and casually as I could with my right hand and excused myself quickly to change his diaper. Unfortunately, before I could wash my hand, my husband called me to come say good-bye to the General who needed to get to a ceremony in his honor. Of course, he held out his hand to me and I couldn’t think how to avoid shaking it. I often wondered if anyone got a whiff of poo when he was standing in the receiving line shaking hands.
H: Hometown – New Orleans, Louisiana – Lived in the French Quarter in the Pontalba Apartments on Jackson Square until I was four. Would love to have my funeral in Jackson Square with a Dixie Land Band. (Not going to happen.)
I: In Love With – My incredibly kind and low maintenance husband of 57 years who helps me laugh about the challenges that come with getting old.
J: Jealous Of – People who can write beautifully and touch other people’s hearts.
K: Killed Someone? – Not that I know of, but I did once have a confused looking pedestrian simply walk straight into the front of my moving car. I was driving very slowly and stopped immediately, but he sort of bounced off the car and my heart stopped for a moment, until he just rubbed his arm a little and walked on down the street. I still remember the horrible sick feeling though.
L: Longest Relationship – My husband: we dated off and on in college for 3 years and have been married 57 years.
M: Middle Name – Fatherree, which was my mother’s maiden name.
N: Number of Siblings – One, a brother almost 10 years younger than I am, who treated me like a princess when I went to visit him in Houston last September. It’s amazing when you’re the last two people in your family of origin how much more you appreciate one another. All those bratty little brother and bossy older sister memories just fade away. Another one of the few perks of getting old. O: One Wish – That I and all those I love and they love will become the people God created us to be. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true.
P: Last Person I Called – A friend, to invite her over for homemade soup on Wednesday, when the snow is supposed to finally all be gone from the streets.
Q: Question You Are Always Asked – Are you Julian’s wife, Chris, Mike, Julie, Steve or Tommy’s mom?
R: Reason to Smile – 11 smart funny wonderful grandchildren and 7 smart funny delightful great-grandchildren whom I either see in person or on face book frequently, and even when I don’t , I have thousands of marvelous, often hilarious, and many very touching memories to pull out and savor.
S: Song You Last Sang – “When the Saints Go Marching In.” I sang it to try to show a friend from Norway what the Dixie Land Music I want at my funeral sounds like.
T: Time You Woke Up – 5am…….not my normal time…. Woke up mentally struggling over problems I’m having with a piece I’m writing for try-outs for a stand-up comedy show.
U: Underwear Color – plain old lady white. (I really wanted to lie about this!)
V: Vacation Destination – Took a challenging, but very scenic trip to the South West of France in October. One of our sons drove us and since we had a wheel chair, a walker, two CPAP machines and six suitcases, we had to rent a large SUV. It was a lovely car, but not really sized for narrow winding roads in medieval mountain villages and along cliffs and river valleys in the forests. I’m afraid when we returned it, it was a smaller car than when we started out. My favorite city is still Paris, but I also love the visual beauty of Salzburg.
W: Worst Habit- snacking – absolutely terrible about it. In fact, I think I’ll go scavenge through the cabinets after I finish this, even though it’s almost midnight! I’m sure I hear some chocolate calling me.
X: X-rays You’ve Had – (MRI’s, CT Scans, Mammograms included) Brain, sinuses, carotid arteries, various fingers, chest, breasts, gall bladder, stomach, left hip, lower back, knees, ankle, feet. (Does that leave anything?)
Y: Your Favorite Food – Lobster, but I don’t get it often, so fresh artichokes are a favorite that I get to have more frequently.
Z: Zodiac Sign – Cancer, which sounds so awful…..I think it used to be Moon Children or something equally strange, but not as sinister sounding as Cancer.
In old age, the life question, “Why am I here?” becomes, “Why am I still here?”
In the past fifteen years scientists have discovered that the natural human life span
may be one hundred and twenty years or more. I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news!
Does the Gospel message have any good news for the challenges of later life?
Many people have conscientiously lived the Gospel message, that it is better to give than to
receive all their lives, so they find it difficult to figure out how to answer the call, “Come, follow
me,” when they are flat on their back, stuck in a wheelchair, in pain, and dependent on family
or nursing home care.
I’ve become convinced that following Jesus in our later years is a completely different
call. Jesus does not limit the “Come Follow Me” to his years of healing the sick, feeding the
hungry, and taking the Good News of God’s love to others. It includes following Him, like loyal,
doubting Thomas to Jerusalem, where we know that in worldly terms, things will not go well.
Jesus was in God’s accelerated class. What He learned from His experiences on Good
Friday may take the rest of us years.
Through my years in a wheelchair, I experienced things that I never would have, if I
were walking under my own power. Painful and challenging as these were, they were learning
experiences. Shocks do get our attention.
Shock One: was being imprisoned. I could no longer go either when or where I wanted.
I was helpless and dependent on others.
Shock Two: was that my church community pretty much went about their busy lives without
me. I felt abandoned even by my Christian family.
Shock Three: Though blessed with free air travel abroad, I discovered that the handicapped
are literally hated in many countries. (Note: Many people were kind in these countries, but the negative experiences were a shock.) In the Czech Republic, I was hissed at and we were forced
off the sidewalks into the streets and even out into the rain by middle-aged, middle-class
looking women. In Lucerne, Switzerland a taxi driver with a trunk easily spacious enough for the
wheelchair, vehemently and arrogantly refused to take us from the airport.
In a two story museum in Paris, we were told that the elevator was out of order, though we
could see workers using it. In Vienna, the manager of our small hotel refused to help
us find a safe place on the ground floor for the wheelchair that wouldn’t fit into the tiny
The first few times I experienced this kind of rejection, I cried at night realizing that it didn’t
matter to these people, whether I was a good person, smart, talented, or had even achieved
things. I was rejected, because in their eyes I was defective, and that probably threatened to
force them to recognize their own vulnerability as human beings. These experiences made me
feel terribly naked and vulnerable out on the streets among hostile strangers. In fact, we would
go blocks out of our way, when we spotted groups of young skin heads on the street.
Shock Four: When we had to struggle to get me and the wheelchair up long flights of stairs
while hurrying to make a connecting train, no one offered any assistance, some even
angrily pushed past us. Those days left me with both a great deal of physical pain and the
emotional pain of feeling so universally rejected.
But grace came in Prague in a huge ancient cathedral. As we toured the cathedrals of Europe
several things struck me. One: the only people actually using them for prayer were the old,
mostly women. Two: The Catholic ones were filled with gold and silver ornaments and
elaborate tombs of Popes and Bishop, the Anglican/Episcopal ones were filled with gold and
silver and elaborate tombs of Kings and Queens and other nobility. The Presbyterian one in
Scotland was a little less gilded, but no less ornate and filled with the tombs of warriors.
In Prague the cathedral not only had many gilded angels, ornaments, and tombs, but one
room with walls almost completely covered with embedded semi-precious stones.
My son wanted to climb to the top of the bell tower and my husband was taking photos of all the
glitter. It was jam packed with tourists, so they parked me in a dim unadorned corner without
any people in it. I was newly wounded by my experiences of rejection and when my son and
husband were gone a long time, I began to feel depressed and sorry for myself. I started
looking around for something that represented the love of God, not the silver and gold in
honor of men. Finally, I looked up at the wall behind me. There was a life size wooden crucifix
with the body of Jesus right over me. We were alone together in the darkness, since the crowd
was entranced by the silver and gold and the famous. I remembered a quote from Paul Caludell, “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.”
Somehow in that moment, I experienced a oneness with Him. We were in this together. I
was not alone and never would be.
God chose, through Jesus, to experience our loss of purpose, imprisonment, falling
under the weight of the cross, needing the help of strangers, being
stripped of image, being rejected by the world for vulnerability,
being abandoned by friends, suffering physical and mental pain that makes the minutes
seem like hours and the hours like eternity, and even finally feeling abandoned by God.
Yet, still saying, “ God, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
I knew then, that He is not only with me and all of us, but He is in us, experiencing
everything through us. Right then, right now, and always. He told us that whatever is done to
even the least of us is done to Him. And in the helplessness of old age, we are finally freed to
accept being the least, those totally dependent on God. We are not alone, ever. And
when that becomes more important to us, than all the losses we mourn, I think we get to go