Having lived over seven decades, it would seem I have met all of the role models possible. However, I am delighted to report that this is not the case. Life tends to send us teachers forever, and that is what I want to share.
I am the Registrar for Friday’s Council Tree Chapter, NSDAR and this is what I enjoy doing. I talk about DAR and meet ladies that want to join – and then assist them in that sometimes overwhelming task. In my opinion, it is the best job in DAR, as I meet ladies of all ages and personalities. In July 2009 I called a prospective member of DAR. This in itself was nothing unusual, but the lady I talked to was very unusual. She was age ninety-two, and had always wanted to be a member of DAR. She had no known relatives that had ever been DAR members. She knew Jacob Dubois was her patriot and a little bit about him. I could see this may be a challenge for more than one reason, and her age was definitely one of them. Time would be of the essence in this case.
I quickly worked to prepare her application and with the documents she had at her house, what I found at eMembership, and on the Internet, we were prepared to mail her application in early August. Now the waiting began.
In the meantime, I learned to know a wonderful lady that had triumphed over many challenges in her life. She became my #1 role model. I felt sad as she shared the tragedy of her first husband’s death when she was left with a three month old baby. She was an example of how to turn sickness into health by eating the right diet. She was a strong partner to her second husband of sixty two years when his health took a serious decline. Her own health had some challenges as well, but she knew how to overcome them and live a good life.
Visiting her home was literally like visiting a museum. She enjoyed her furniture that she had accumulated during the many years of her life. There were several beautiful, old, large grandfather clocks and their sounds were all different but together they created a beautiful chorus and soothing sound. The walls were hung with the pictures that showed a family changing and growing thru the decades. She proudly displayed the pictures of her grandsons all dressed in their Eagle Scout uniforms. Her husband’s military medals and commendations had a very prominent wall of their own. He was definitely an American hero and a WWII hero. The lesson I learned when I visited her home was that she was planning on enjoying her “things” as long as possible. There was no downsizing in her plans for the future.
I will never forget the day I called her to tell her that her DAR application had been verified. She was excited and I felt she was happy she had carried through in this desire to be a DAR member. By now I knew her well enough to know this was not unusual. She said she probably couldn’t get to many meetings, but her thoughts would be there anyway. For this lady it was simply, “Mission Accomplished”.
She was the type of person that welcomed even unexpected guests. That trait seems to have declined in our culture as we expect to invite guests to call at our own convenience. She also always had a guest book at the front door. Everyone that entered was asked to sign. What a wonderful record of her friends and acquaintances. She had a mail station and was an active email user. As we were going through her documents for DAR she nonchalantly loaded the paper tray in her printer/copier so I could make necessary copies. She seemed to have embraced new technology with ease.
I knew this special lady for one year. I was privileged to observe a mentally strong lady that controlled her own destiny until the very end of life. During this unforgettable year we shared several life altering events. Both of our husbands passed away. She had to leave her home for a month as she needed specialized care at a rehab facility. I called on her during all of these things and we didn’t think it unusual at all that we hadn’t known each other for very long. And of course, at the end she was very ill and I went to visit her quite often. And then one day I received a call that she was not expected to live much longer. I left immediately to go see her one last time.
This lady was a walking example of how to grow old graciously. Age didn’t seem to be the object of her attention at all. That sort of behavior is very contagious and I caught a little bit of it from her.
I do not believe friendship is measured in time. Sometimes we meet someone that is specifically sent into our lives at the right time for us and it is as if you have known them forever. This was the case for me. As I bid her goodbye on the last day of her life, I was certainly sad, but more than that, I was grateful to have met this very special friend.
Role models? We never outgrow the need for them and we can always strive to be a good one for someone else. I will never forget my favorite and latest role model.
Patj's Note: This was the 1st Place Winner in the Colorado State NSDAR Women's Issues Essay Contest in 2012.