We so often walk around in our lives, in the mundane, feeling sorry for ourselves, not wanting to get out of bed because ‘he never called’ or ‘so and so is being so mean to me at work’ or [fill in the blank]. I was reminded of true courage and grit this week when I had a visit with a friend.
Not that I hadn’t seen courage over the years with my own family and friends; but the woman I’m about to describe to you is as courageous and beautiful today as she was, I would venture to say, ‘back in the day’ over 50 years ago. Her name? Let’s call her Martha. Martha led a very simple life with her husband of approximately 60 years, had a house right next door to her life long best friend; they had a fence between the two homes with a gate so they could go back and forth with ease. They were inseparable!
She lovingly raised her children, went on to raise her grandchildren and great grand children. She sang in a four-part a cappella chorus and quartet for about 40 years; and when I came to meet her she was still on the risers performing (singing and dancing choreo) into her 80’s! Never complained, while other women around her would complain of this or that; not Martha. She would stand proud and do everything as directed, sometimes for hours! What a GEM! Always a smile on that face of hers and she would light up the room.
She’s 87 now (approximately). She’s since came down with a couple of rounds of esophageal cancer followed by radiation, which makes it very difficult for her to eat food or drink because there is very little room to swallow. Later she got cancer of the tongue and lost half of that, making it hard for her to speak. The scaring from the radiation and the loss of half of her tongue has made her speech very difficult and taking of food impossible. She must be fed through a tube in her stomach. She can’t eat or drink for the rest of her days. But you won’t hear a complaint from her.
She was still getting up every day, showering, taking care of herself and her husband; tending to the chores like cooking and cleaning and shopping, all the while humming a happy tune. Every now and again, even though her singing days were through, she would sit in on rehearsals or go to the chorus’ performances in support. No, there is no self-pity in this woman and she still walks with that pep in her step.
A few weeks ago her husband passed away and I went over to see Martha. Being that it can be difficult to understand her and I’m not much of the conversationalist myself, I brought a mutual friend with me. We all sat and talked for an hour of so and laughed as usual. Martha is truly a kick. She shared with us her husband’s last moments, but no tears were shed as she put it; “it was his time, but I miss him and love him.”
There were simple things like the pursing of the lips that one would do to kiss someone, she finds impossible to do, because of her condition. And she was saying, in that last moment, as they hugged, she tried to kiss him but couldn’t. She knew he understood as they would laugh about it in the past. But still, I could see how painful it must have felt to not perform that very simple expression of love, in his last moments, by the look in her eyes… just for a moment, and then we were on to the next subject.
As she was telling us this, I was realizing all that I have to be grateful for. I know I’ve said this in past posts… and, I’ve had my own little pity parties in past posts… but that’s part of life, is it not? It’s accepting that we are NOT perfect and that we are all creatures in the making; constantly transforming and learning from each other as I’ve learned from Martha and hope to continue to learn from her example.
She is a fine example of not just making lemonade out of lemons, but (as she would say) refusing the lemons all together “psha!” and tossing them out. It is that true grit that keeps us young and keeps us going. We must have our chores and lists of items ‘to do’ each and every day. When we don’t, when we allow ourselves to get too caught up in the comparisons and the ‘what ifs’, well then we are asking for trouble.
One day at a time seems a bit trite, but it does fit here. That is how I’ve been dealing with my breakdown and my grief… One-day-at-a-time. And I’m all the better for it, actually. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and as Martha would tell me, I have no control over it. I’m a talented woman so “get on with it!” “Be happy, and LIVE!” Is what she told me; and live is just what I intend to do.
Courage, as I’ve written in the past, wears many faces. This week I’m writing about one particular individual, Martha. One of the MOST courageous people I know at present and truly a hero in my book. She deserves the best we all can give her and the best this life can give her for all the days she has left.
And stared with wonder and surprise,
To see beneath November skies
An apple blossom peer;
Upon a branch as bleak as night
It gleamed exultant on my sight,
A fairy beacon burning bright
Of hope and cheer.”Alas!” said I, “poor foolish thing,
Have you mistaken this for Spring?
Behold, the thrush has taken wing,
And Winter’s near.”
Serene it seemed to lift its head:
“The Winter’s wrath I do not dread,
Because I am,” it proudly said,
“Some apple blossom must be first,
With beauty’s urgency to burst
Into a world for joy athirst,
And so I dare;
And I shall see what none shall see -
December skies gloom over me,
And mock them with my April glee,
And fearless fare.
“And I shall hear what none shall hear -
The hardy robin piping clear,
The Storm King gallop dark and drear
Across the sky;
And I shall know what none shall know -
The silent kisses of the snow,
The Christmas candles’ silver glow,
Before I die.
“Then from your frost-gemmed window pane
One morning you will look in vain,
My smile of delicate disdain
No more to see;
But though I pass before my time,
And perish in the grale and grime,
Maybe you’ll have a little rhyme
To spare for me.”