A New Life! Retirement at its Best 62

Thanksgiving at Waltonwood

Last night, the Club organized a Thanksgiving dinner for Residents, their families and friends. They started the buffet half an hour early to accommodate everyone in a timely manner, but alas, the line was long, and even though they had set up a special table for nine for us in the Café, we had to go through the line to get our food. It was not too bad, because Dennis and Luke arrived much later after Luke’s basketball tryout. Dinner was hot and delicious, and we all had a good time. Next week we will be on our own as the family has other plans.


Yesterday I received an invitation to give my Presentation for OLLI (Osher Lifetime Learning Institute) at NC State University. That is wonderful news, because the audience will be over 50 years old and seniors are usually interested in WWII subjects. I spoke three times for OLLI at Yavapai College in Prescott during the 15 years we lived there; the last time in the new MultiMedia room for almost 100 people. My presentation had improved over the years, so I felt good about sharing my story. NCSU is now scheduling for May through June, and they will soon let me know time and date. And the best thing of all: I get 90 minutes to present and answer questions, and that is much better than the 15 minutes I usually get at a Rotary or Lyons meeting.

Saying goodbye

What do you say when someone who is dying holds your hand and whispers “You are the best friend I’ve had in my whole life.” In her whole life? I had only known her a few  months. My thoughts went back to the beginning of our short friendship. She was a small grey haired woman, completely hunched over her walker, crippled by severe scoliosis. Someone I had easily overlooked. One day, I believe it was last August, it was raining and I decided to walk inside the main building around all the four floors. Everybody has a small shelf outside the front door of their apartment which they decorate with all kinds of personal things. I stopped at a shelf that had a basket with rocks and next to it a couple of geodes; two halves, showing their glittering purple inside, and one huge one, still closed. How interesting. I have collected rocks over the years, coral and quartz, and ones with interesting shapes, like triangles and circles and trapezoids, and I had just decided I should give some away to create room for other things. Ha! I had found someone who would appreciate getting a few of my rocks! In the Directory I looked up who lived in the apartment with the basket of rocks, and found her one day in the hallway. “I noticed your rock collection,” I said. “I collect rocks too. Would you like to have a rock from Hawai’i?” She nodded, and the next day I chose my most beautiful triangular white rock and went up to her apartment, where I added it to her shelf. I always thought of it as the Trinity and loved it a lot. A few days later she tracked me down in the breakfast room and said, “I really like your rock. Thank you. Would you like to have a geode? I can ask my daughter to get you one from the stream on her property.” Geodes hold a secret inside and always intrigued me; so I said, yes please, and a week later she handed me a small geode, wrapped in a paper towel. I took my treasure home and added it to my collection. One day, when I know how, I will cut it open or rather have someone cut it open, to see the inside. But you know, I was really planning to give away some of my rocks. Instead, I received one in return. So I asked her if she would like another one, a coral rock. She did not really know what it would look like, but accepted it for her basket. And then followed a piece of quartz from her grandson’s yard for me and another one. Then she went to the hospital and I put a Get Well card on her shelf, with large, bright sunflowers. She came back and life went on. I decided to give her three of the miniature sand dollars I had found on the beach in Hawai’i. She had never seen such little ones and loved them. She went to the hospital again and came back two days later. I met her at dinner and then she said, “They took me to the hospital to drain the fluids that had built up in my body. I feel a lot better. But I am not going back again. I have colon cancer but they can’t operate, and so I am on my last legs. I know it and I am all right with it.”

At brunch on Sunday, I heard someone say that Lillian was very ill. I did not realize that her time on earth would be that short. I wrote her a letter to say goodbye and put it on her shelf. The next morning I met her daughter who came down to the breakfast room to get some orange juice and fruit. I had seen her before, and helped her get the things she needed. She told me the family had been there for four days and nights and they would not leave her alone any more.

I’ll make a long story short. I took a long stemmed, orange rose up to the apartment and was invited in. Lillian lay in a hospital bed in the living room and gave me a big smile when I took her hand. And then she said, “You are the best friend I’ve had in my whole life.”
“Each time I will look at the rocks you gave me, my friend, I will think of you, so a part of you will always be with me,” was the only thing I knew to say. “I love you, Lillian.”

I went back to see her one more time today to bring some Aquaphor for her dry lips; she was unconscious, and looking at her I knew her time was near.

She has given me a precious gift: the knowledge that, through little kindnesses, you can become someone’s best friend of their whole life. You can make a world of difference for someone by sharing a little bit of love.

I’m wishing you all a Lovely Thanksgiving.

Life is a treasure.

Until next time,






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