The quote in this email—She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future—I have pasted on the wall in the room I do most of my writing in. It’s a paraphrase of a verse in Proverbs, and I need that daily reminder.

I had a few funny stories in mind, but I just didn’t feel like they were the ones I was supposed to tell today. Today is one of those days where I really don’t want to write what I’m know I’m supposed to write. Part of the reason is I don’t feel qualified.

Just last week, I was in a lot of pain. Physical pain—headaches mostly, but I hurt pretty much everywhere for a while. I also had a couple of hits to my heart, which I might have handled better, but I got them about the same time we got some bad news about several things, including my favorite calf. (I shouldn’t have favorites, right? Well, I do. : ) And there’s an ongoing thing that God is working in my life that I’m not happy about. Yet.

I’m sorry if it sounds like complaining. I don’t mean to. I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve. I just wanted to say that last week I wasn’t always living what I believe. I struggled some. I’m saying that because, with this newsletter, I don’t want anyone to think I’m writing from a position of victory. My position right now is definitely one of messiness.

So, I’m sorry, but the story today isn’t funny; I hope it’s beautiful, though.

I met Miss Alda on her 102nd birthday. My kids (my youngest was in a handheld car seat and the others were 6, 8, 10, and 12) were asked to sing at her birthday party at the nursing home she lived in.

It still baffles me why anyone would want to hear my family sing, but when the kids were that age, up until my oldest went to Iowa at 16, we had a lot of requests for them. I guess they were just cute. IDK.

Anyway, we showed up at the nursing home for Miss Alda’s party. I’m not sure what I expected, but Miss Alda didn’t look a day over 75. Her smile was the brightest in the room. But it was her attitude that was truly amazing. 

I found out from one of the workers that Miss Alda had never married, never had children and was completely alone in the world, save for one sister she never saw who was 98 years old, completely blind, and living in a nursing facility six hours away in New Jersey. 

That was the reason we’d been asked to come—Miss Alda didn’t have anyone else to celebrate her birthday with her.

I suppose I don’t have to point out how depressing that could be. If you have no one who cares about you, no one who notices whether you even get out of bed in the morning, no obvious point or purpose to your life…I could see me turning my face to the wall and saying, “I’m ready, Lord. Take me home.”

If she would have done that—and who could blame her, right?—she wouldn’t have not only made us smile every time we visited, but she wouldn’t have influenced this young mother and changed my life like she did. 

Miss Alda was cheerful and sweet, she loved on my kids, she made everyone around her smile and laugh, and not only did she love on me and encourage me and make me feel like she really cared about me, but she became one of the most influential role models of my life. 

The care workers said that the way Miss Alda was that day was the way she always was. Every day.

I hardly think I’ll live to be 102, but if I do, I want to be just like Miss Alda—perpetually happy, never down, but most of all, bringing joy to everyone around me. The question was…how?

I’ve thought about that a lot. Not just when I talked with Miss Alda and watched her, but in the years since.

I think that might be too much for this newsletter, but there were two things about that I wanted to say.

The first is I need to start today, practicing on becoming the person I want to be. And since I want to be like Jesus (as Miss Alda was), I’m going to be in His word, reading, studying, and memorizing, and—through his strength—trying to put into practice what I learn. I haven’t gotten great at it yet, but I’m still working.

The second is you never know who’s watching you. I never told Miss Alda how she’d influenced me. She had no idea. The nursing home activities director approached me that day—Miss Alda’s 102nd birthday—and asked me if my family would come once a month and sing for them. It was kind of shocking, but I said yes. For the next two years, until Miss Alda’s death at 104, I saw and admired her once every month.

The last time I saw her, she couldn’t get out of bed, so the kids and I went to her room. She asked us to sing two of the songs we normally sang when we visited while we were standing there at her bedside: “Hand in Hand with Jesus”—which is a beautiful song of comfort—and “Let My Life Be a Light”—which describes Miss Alda’s life perfectly.

The next time we came, she was gone.

I wasn’t going to say all this, because who wants to talk about death? But, to me, death isn’t a defeat. Not for me. I’m not afraid. Not of death.

The actual act of dying??? Well, yeah, I’m not too keen on that, because I don’t like to suffer and I am pain-adverse, and breathing is really fun and I do it all the time and don’t care to stop, but the idea of death? Nope.

When I die, throw a party, because I’m gonna be happy! Before you get upset with me, do you realize I’ve never met my grandparents? I can’t wait to run through the gates (I’ll go back later and actually check them out, because I’ve heard they’re beautiful, and I’ll have plenty of time) and throw my arms around them! My dad’s dad died when my dad was six. (I’ve always called him my dad’s dad, because I don’t even know what to call him…Grandpa? Pap? Grandfather?)

I’ve only ever seen one picture of him. He doesn’t exactly look like the hugging kind, but I don’t give a flip. He’s getting one. : ) Along with my mother’s mother, who died long before I was born as well. She was a schoolteacher and a bit of a writer, and I think she and I will have a lot to chat about. ; )

I’m not saying I want to die, exactly. As long as I’m alive, I know God has a plan for me, and whatever he puts in front of me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability (whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might), and if it’s time for me to die, He’s going to hold my hand and help me cross from this life to the next. (And I’ll need that help, tbh. Seriously, I can pretty much get lost anywhere and I can also mess anything up, without trying, and if it’s possible to mess death up, I’m sure I’m the one that will figure out how—accidentally, of course—and end up in an alternate dimension two universes away or something.)

And I’ll see Miss Alda. I’m going to thank her then for being who she was at 102 and 103 and 104…

So, maybe we’re not where we want to be today. Things aren’t going the way we want. Maybe we’re stuck at home and think, or know, that no one can see us. That shouldn’t stop us from practicing on becoming what we want to become, because someday there will be people watching us. What are they going to see?

Won’t it be sweet to be hanging out in Heaven, listening to the choir (I can’t sing now, but hopefully I’ll get a heavenly voice and God will let me sing harmony in the heavenly choir—it’s one of my dreams; look for me there!) and chatting with old (and new) friends, when someone comes up and says, “I just want to thank you for changing my life.” Then they explain to us that they simply watched what we were, saw a little of Jesus in us, and aspired to be the same. 

Could there be anything better?