A Life Well-Lived

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Visiting a 98 year old friend who was my mom's best friend for many years brought back memories and emotions. And immense admiration for Mildred Kitchens. She is in her sixth assisted living facility, counting one for rehab after surgery and one after a more recent problem with a fall. This one locates her closer to her only surviving son.

Bringing Cheer to Others
Mildred now relies on a wheelchair to get around her facility. She still -- after a lifetime in the helping professions -- strives to bring cheer and goodwill to others, at her table, in the hallways, in each encounter.

She let a fellow try driving her Jazzy chair, which she will sell because it is too big for the dining tables here. She got our table laughing and sharing anecdotes at lunch on Saturday. She pokes gentle fun at herself while being amazingly honest. She accepts what is but maintains humor and good will.

Inspired by her presence, I wrote two poems. I only gave her this first one. The other is a reminder for me, about all people who are aging in their own last stops.

Well-Lived

A life well-lived?

Soul unfolding, whole,

Gratitude for a perfect grey feather on the lawn,

A golden pendant, anniversary token,

A grubby fist of dandelions,

And your own speedy prayers:

Jesus, help me!

A life well-lived . . .

Knowing you did your best,

Brought love and intelligence to the game,

Moved your markers, collected prizes,

Sat stalemate, blocked, overlooked,

Or sailed with ease and grace,

Always to a safe place.

A life well-lived . . .

Sometimes you were misunderstood

But kept going,

Did what you could with what you had just then,

Rose to the occasion

Every time,

Laughed at yourself,

Looked for the good in all,

In all.

Spoke kind words.

Waited, impatiently patient.

Wondered

What is after a life well-lived?

Universes await, swirling lights and your sweet Lord,

All

So

Much

Vaster

Than ever imagined,

From streets of a New Jerusalem to all the Cosmos,

And that which holds the universes

Spiraling

Inward and outward

On God’s breath.

There is no death,

Only

A life

Well-lived.

Reflections on a Last Stop
This second poem is more for me, using a few of Mildred's words, bits and pieces from our conversation, stated as facts. That's the way it is. She and her colleagues here discuss, if they are still able, the way it is. Living at the last stop is not easy. Waiting to go is not easy. As my mom told me a couple of years before she transitioned, "Mildred and I agree: Getting old is getting old."


My mom, Kathleen Griffith, passed away peacefully on April 1, 2017, at 97. Mildred is glad her dear friend Kathleen did not have the old folks home experience.

Last Stop

Last stop on the line,

Last ring on the merry-go-round.

Last chance for a clearance price.

Last call for a double down.

Waiting

Shut in our apartments

Till it is our time to go.

Waiting.

Kids put us here to keep us safe

Till it is our time to go.

Waiting

For someone to come.

Napping

Because that’s what old people do.

Waiting for the hairdresser,

Waiting for the bath,

Waiting for the nightly call.

Someone cares after all

Till it is our time to go.

Last stop, last stop,

On the line,

Last stop, last stop,

Until it is our time.

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