Our Mason District residents are known far and wide, apparently. Imagine my surprise when I made a quick trip to my Oregon hometown this past weekend, and my sister pointed out a front page article in the Sunday edition of the Eugene Register-Guard, the local paper. The article, a reprint of an earlier Washington Post piece, discussed the challenges to senior citizens when they have to give up driving. Featured were Betty Lee Thatcher, an Annandale resident, and Nancy Hall, president of the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA), which coordinates rides for seniors to medical appointments. This is a big country, but many issues, like the potential isolation of senior citizens who no longer drive, are the same regardless of size or geography.
Turnabout is fair play, so here is an Oregon story for Mason District residents. My trip to Oregon was bittersweet, as I went home to say goodbye to my sister who is battling to stay alive until after Christmas. She is exhibiting some of the same orneriness she had as a child, and wants to depart life on her own terms. That means a happy holiday season for her husband, children, and grandchildren. It’s a tall order, but she might just be stubborn enough to make it happen. In any case, she told me, she isn’t afraid of death, but she surely is reluctant to say goodbye to her family. She has made her peace with God; in fact, she always nurtured her spiritual life so there really are no special preparations needed now, she said.
Special preparations, however, are what I saw during my visit. The outpouring of friendship and love for Chris, just during my brief visit, was astounding. Old high school friends stopped by to visit, as did a lovely young woman, recently engaged to be married, who was one of Chris’s former Girl Scouts. Someone came by with a large ham for the family; friends from church brought spiritual sustenance; and one couple from a rural hamlet stopped by while they were “in town” to do some holiday shopping. Each one has a different relationship with Chris, and each one was charmed by her positive approach.
What brought tears to my eyes, and to hers, was a special visit by a trio of professional local entertainers. Every year, Chris has attended their holiday concert, sitting in the front row in holiday mode. This year, since Chris could not go out, the group offered to put on a special concert in her living room just prior to their Sunday night performance. Chris made sure that she was in holiday mode once again, putting on makeup and even drawing her eyebrows on. With a bright red scarf around her neck, she received her special guests while the small pump that provides intravenous hydration quietly pulsed every half-minute or so. I slipped out during the third song and had a good cry all the way to the airport.
Too often, we miss the opportunity to let people know how much they mean to us, and it becomes too late. Thankfully, my sister knows.