Jan 9, 2014
Sara Downs Voorhees
Of how many people who die at 100 can you say “What a pity! Struck down in her prime!”
I was two years old at the time of the iconic Shortest Line, so I began my life at the same time mom began her NEW life. I was lucky: she was one of my best friends. She was always on my side, as she was for everyone she loved, and when I had my heart broken for the first time, she pulled out her favorite poetry book and read me poems that had comforted her when she was sad.
She was also my mentor—wise and philosophical. Here are five things I learned from her, either by example or by decree:
- Never talk about people behind their backs: it will ALWAYS get back to them.
- Get up early! PLENTY OF TIME TO SLEEP IN THE GRAVE!
- It’s never too late to fall in love ... (She LOVED MEN! And she fell in love four times: the last time was when she was 94.)
- She believed that the most important thing we can do in our lives is to recognize what our parents did to us .. and forgive them.
- But her most important message, to me and to all of us, was her conviction that no matter what burdens we carry, we have a choice between being bitter and being happy. Happy is always better. She told me once “It will not serve you to be angry or disappointed or sad because HE or SHE or WE or THEY or IT did not give you what you wanted. Or needed. It will only serve you to look to the future.” And that is what she did.
Her secret was to CLOSE THE DOOR on anything in the past or present, that was painful or couldn’t be changed.
She was the most positive, cheerful person I have ever known. She was even cheerful about Death. She loved George Burns’ comment that people who make it to 100 have it made! Because hardly anyone dies after 100!
I’m going to read you a poem SHE wrote about Death, and then I’ll tell a quick story she specifically asked me to tell you.
She wrote this poem one night when she couldn’t sleep .. which was not uncommon. She was 82. It’s called: WELCOME DEATH!
It’s just what we were born for—
To make that final leap;
It’s nothing we should mourn for—
It’s only the Big Sleep.
The scientists are telling us
(Those fellows never aimless)
That now they can assure us --
At least it will be painless.
For me, I’ll offer all my thanks
(In Latin, gratis omnia)
And give the gods my endless thanks
For curing my insomnia
When she was 93 or so, she called me from Denver and asked if I could come up from New Mexico for the weekend, because she needed my help: She wanted me to help her come up with her dying words. The idea was that if I was with her when she died, I could remind her what they were. And if I wasn’t with her, I could tell you all the story and everyone would think she was SO funny. So, we spent the weekend coming up with possible dying words.
One possibility was “I have delighted you long enough.” But it turned out to be a Jane Austin quote.
She liked “Either this wallpaper goes, or I go” but unfortunately Oscar Wilde had said that on HIS deathbed.
She considered “Enough Already!” but she knew she would never have enough.
As luck would have it, I was with her when she died, but I don’t think she could hear me when I told her that what she had finally decided she’d like to say as she slipped off into the cosmic void was this:
TELL THE BOYS IN THE BACK ROOM I’M ON MY WAY!