Elisabeth Elliot died today. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, I suppose she is best known for a tragedy that occurred almost 50 years ago – and her incredible courage in the midst of great personal pain. She and her husband, Jim Elliot, were living in the jungles of Ecuador doing missionary work with several other families.
Jim and four of his associates went further into the jungle where they knew an unreached tribe was known to live. The Huaorani tribe with whom they made contact killed all five of the men and disappeared back into the jungle. Jim and Elisabeth had been married little more than two years. Elisabeth was left to care for their 10-month-old daughter.
Details of the contact between the missionaries and the tribe are documented in a 2005 film, End of the Spear, and I referred to the film in a 2010 post. I won’t repeat what I wrote in that post other than to say I remember when the men were murdered. I was a small child and it left an impression on me. Continue reading “She Followed Far”→
Twenty years ago, a television show called FRIENDS debuted. The series ran for ten seasons and chronicled the lives of six characters (3 guys, 3 girls), twenty-somethings living in New York City. Billed as a romantic-comedy series, the show aired to generally mixed reviews but quickly built an audience. In many respects, it was SEINFELD for younger adults. (Seinfeld’s primary characters also lived in NYC and were thirty-somethings.)Though I’ve occasionally caught a clip or two from Friends as I flip through channels, I’ve never actually watched an entire episode. During its initial run, I didn’t exactly fit the age demographic. Now that it’s in syndication, it’s even less appealing to me. But friendship … now that’s something I can get jazzed about! Continue reading “I’ll Be There For You”→
Adult children and the moms who love them … these relationships can be challenging, exasperating and beyond bewildering at times! Speaking as one who experiences life from both perspectives, I have come to understand no matter how old I am, I remain always my mother’s daughter. She does not know how to un-mother me just because I have attained adulthood.On the other hand, there are times when I’m inclined to mother my mother. As she gets older, she is ever more frail, so I tend to be solicitous – she hates that! She has this incredibly strong will that rejects offers of help, even when needed. For example, she has one of those Lifeline medical alerts (the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” people) but we had difficulty convincing her to actually wear it. (I think she may have believed wearing it was an admission of weakness.) Continue reading “The Curse of Super-Mommery”→
One of the trending hashtags on Twitter today was #ADVICEFORYOUNGJOURNALISTS. I’m guessing this hashtag was, at least in part, a result of the recent shake-up at NBCNews due to the “misremembering” antics of Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.Back in the dark ages (I called them the 60s), my intention upon high school graduation was to enroll at the University of Missouri to major in journalism. I had earned a scholarship to Mizzou, it was located only a couple hours from my home, and at that time at least, it was considered one of the best J-schools in the country. According to Wikipedia (see subheading in above image), it “may be the oldest formal journalism school in the world.” Continue reading “#AdviceForYoungJournalists”→
There’s a statement by C. S. Lewis from The Four Loves which has great currency for me. It says: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself ….'” Wisdom from the pen of Lewis rarely disappoints. This statement is no exception.
Back in the mid-1960s, I became acquainted with one of the new girls in my class at junior high school. Little did I know that our friendship would deepen and grow, that eventually my older brother would marry her, and that we’d sustain a lifelong bond of friendship that only grows sweeter as we grow older.
Through the years as we’ve both raised our families, we’ve experienced similar (though separate) lives. After marriage, the stages of work and childbearing and completing education and more work and more education and moving to different cities as our husbands made career changes and the loss of parents in death and … all those common milestones of life, we always seemed to have the “What! You too?” moments between us. Continue reading “Friends Forever”→
After a week at Summer Camp, it’s not unusual for Campers to feel exhausted from their adventures but also, some Campers may feel let down as daily life resumes its normal pace. Empty the suitcases, do mountains of laundry and arrange photos in albums to preserve the precious memories! Is the adventure really over??!
Though I’m glad to have completed my “Summer Camp” week and to be back home, I often feel melancholy as I drive away from my mom’s home. Given her upcoming birthday and the march of advanced years, it’s difficult to ignore the niggling inner voice that reminds me this could be the last time I see her this side of Eternity.
If you’ve already suffered the loss of parents, please understand I’m only halfway there. Considering how my mom embodies my “other self” in so many ways, I can’t begin to comprehend what a huge loss her passing will mean for me! I know this: every minute we spend together now is more precious than gold. Continue reading “In The Rearview Mirror”→
With the Fall session of school about to commence for school children across the fruited plain, I imagine there will be plenty of first-week assignments where children will write about their summer activities. Please allow me to be among the first to contribute as I offer this summary of My Week at Summer Camp.
Yes, I’m being slightly whimsical here … my week at summer camp was actually not a literal week (6 days) and not spent at a summer camp, but rather, at my mom’s home. However, in keeping with the Summer Camp theme, let’s call her place Camp MommaRuthePesaukee. (The name has to have an American Indian ending or it won’t sound authentic.) But let me assure you, this particular Summer Camp is just about the best one I’ve ever experienced and every single time I come, we’re able to create the best memories ever! Continue reading “My Week At Summer Camp”→
Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony! Born on February 15, 1820, Anthony worked tirelessly throughout her life (she died in 1906) for the values she held most dear. Born into a Quaker family, she inherited from her parents an acute appreciation for the dignity of every human being.
Information about Anthony’s life and work is widely available online, so rather than rehash those details, I thought I’d highlight other tidbits I have enjoyed by studying her. (Any serious student of Anthony’s will likely appreciate the two-volume work written in 1899 by Ida Husted Harper and available for download from Project Gutenberg.)
Biographical information reflects Anthony was a hard worker, a self-starter who from her youngest years applied herself to study and serving the needs of her family. In their young years, Susan and her sisters cooked and carried food to their father’s hired factory hands. Later, when her family experienced severe economic downturn, Susan set herself to help pay off her father’s debts.
The elder Anthony’s views on intemperance made a lasting impression on his children, including Susan. When hired hands were “ill” from spending too much time at the tavern, Susan was paid to do their job. Her father organized a temperance group and in his business dealings, Anthony also opposed slavery to the extent he would not purchase products made with slave labor.
These moral choices certainly informed Susan B. Anthony’s life. An interesting incident occurred when Susan attended school where the male teacher didn’t care to teach a girl long division. Susan’s father subsequently brought her home for her education (including long division). Such early experiences − and her parents’ willingness to open doors rather than close them − gave Susan an excellent foundation to understand and embrace the inherent dignity of humanity, regardless of gender or skin color.
Eventually, Susan’s passions for abolition, suffrage and temperance flowered into active agitation. In the early 1850s, having met both Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well as other notables, Susan began to participate in the struggle for suffrage. This would lead to the November election of 1872 in which she and more than a dozen other women walked into the Rochester, New York polling location and boldly cast their votes. (In addition, 1872 was the first time women were officially recognized in a major party platform, receiving the nod from the Republican Party.)
Anthony was, of course, arrested and tried for her “illegal” vote and a kangaroo court convicted her. With characteristic vigor, Anthony held her ground, refusing to pay the imposed fine ($100 plus costs) and she was never sent to jail despite her refusal to pay. Further, she promised the judge she would continue to violate the law in order to one day have justice. Pursuing what was right, Anthony learned to be fearless!
ASIDE: I’ve chosen in this post not to worry over the ongoing argument that a contemporary Susan B. Anthony would be pro-life or support abortion rights. My personal view is her sense of human dignity (no matter one’s location or status) reveals a deep-seated distaste for willful destruction of life, but I’ll leave the particulars of that argument to others.
An outstanding aspect of Susan B. Anthony’s life was her friendship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I absolutely love the heartfelt sentiment and love expressed (written in verse!) in this eightieth birthday greeting from Stanton to Anthony! (Original images found here.) To me, this is a poignant message, especially because both women were well advanced in years. Stanton died less than three years after this birthday greeting.
Two lifelong friends … joined not just by their efforts toward universal suffrage but by their love for one another. Neither of them would live to experience the fulfillment of the blessings of liberty they’d envisioned, but they were confident it would happen. And it did with passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Like many others, I’m amazed how full my Inbox is when I see it first thing in the morning. Lots of emails get trashed after half an inattentive glance.
Knowing today is the anniversary of President Ronald Reagan‘s birthday, I paused at William Bennett’s email (shown below and reproduced from his book available here). Given Bennett’s personal relationship with President Reagan, I expected he would mark the day and I wasn’t disappointed.
This excerpt represents the concluding paragraphs of Reagan’s second inaugural address (full transcript here). Reading through this emailed excerpt, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Reagan’s gift for communication. He had the ability to speak from his heart and touch yours and mine. This speech reminds me of his keen poetic sensibilities.
Anyone who has read long ago posts on this blog knows my fondness for President Reagan. I had disagreements with the man and acknowledge disappointments during his tenure, but I will continue to admire him. (See this recent post for my comments on human imperfection.) Reagan’s deep love for our country was part of what made him The Great Communicator. His optimism was contagious!
To honor the memory of President Reagan, I took on a challenge today. I thought about how his evocative words might make a nice sonnet. In this regard, I limited myself (for the most part) to the ideas on which Reagan touched in the text of Bennett’s excerpt. The resulting sonnet is reproduced below.
My husband and I are in that stage of life when the care of our aging widowed mothers becomes a more pressing concern. Hubby’s mom lives nearby and he tries to visit with her daily. She’s 91 years of age and was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year ago. I mentioned her in a post last fall.
Almost every day when he comes home from visiting with her (he usually drives over to her assisted living facility after his workday ends), he provides a brief report of their conversation. She rarely remembers his name now, though she remembers he’s her son. When he offers hints about his name, sometimes she’s close, but the memory has difficulty filling in all the details.
She also remembers she’s a mother of other sons, but their names don’t come easily either. The other day, she told my husband there were people coming to “do drugs” outside her door and they would also be in her apartment for the same purpose. (I wondered if she might be hallucinating. She has before.) Eventually, she managed to say “carpets” and the story made more sense. The carpets were scheduled to be shampooed.
Then there’s my mom. Anticipating her 88th birthday this year, my mother doesn’t suffer with Alzheimer’s; her challenge is macular degeneration. (I’ve mentioned her in numerous posts on this blog. Remember Bobbie Pringle?)
A couple weeks ago, I had an early morning scare with her. It was before eight a.m. when my phone rang. I saw on the caller id that it was my mom’s number, so I answered saying, “What are you doing up at this hour?” (Truth be told, she’s generally up long before I am.)
No answer came from the other end. I kept the line open thinking maybe she’d set the phone down for some reason. After talking loudly into the speaker for several minutes with no response, I hung up and dialed her number only to get a busy signal.
That’s when I started worrying. What if she’d dialed me and before she could speak she’d suffered a heart attack or something? The thought of her lying on the floor unable to speak into her phone while attempting a call for help disturbed me immensely!
Unfortunately, I live six hours away from her! Eventually, I called my sister (who lives within a half hour of Mom). My sister drove over, determined everything was fine and texted me the news. Of course, I felt like an idiot, having bothered my sister, but know I would have felt much worse if something adverse had happened to her and nobody had checked to make sure she was okay.
[I know we’re not the only ones in the world concerned with aging parents. I know there are numerous people handling situations much worse than what my husband and I encounter with our mothers … and I would never minimize those really difficult situations of others.]
When we had a previous scare with my mom, I wrote this sonnet. It speaks (generally) to the bond of parent and child and the reversal of those roles as a parent ages. The nature of Alzheimer’s certainly qualifies it as a juggernaut. Aging is that by itself and the daily possibility of death is like an unwelcome companion lurking in a dark corner of the room.
Macular degeneration is no less a juggernaut, just a different kind of aging challenge. The ever-present risk from a fall … or trusting one’s sense of touch when taking medication (is this the correct pill!) … or setting a flammable object on a hot burner … when a person’s virtually blind, small things suddenly take on complexity.
My mom has aged remarkably well, keeping her inner vision and verve for life bubbling over even as her eyesight has diminished. I think she still has much to teach me in her final years (many more years, God willing) … including how to continue aging well and eventually how to die without regret.
I hope I’ll remain a conscientious and devoted learner.