03 November 2008

The story of Helen

Last week I had dinner with some long-time friends I met because of genealogy. Gene & Winnie Fernstrom have been friends for 26 years! And none of us has a gray hair, LOL. I asked Winnie how her Mother, Helen, was doing. Her 98 year old Mother was still going strong and playing cards. Helen never let adversity stop her from living and she passed this philosophy on to others.
Two nights after that dinner I received an e-mail. Helen had passed away just a couple of hours before. She suddenly took ill. Yep, I cried (as my sister would say, big surprise!). Over the past few years I got to know Helen better. I didn't see her frequently, but did spend time with her whenever I was doing lectures in Arizona where she had lived for most of the last 30 years. About a year and a half ago, her daughters wanted her to come back to Minnesota where they could take care of her.

When I would visit Gene & Winnie in Casa Grande, Arizona where they wintered with Helen, I was amazed at the activities in which Helen participated. Everyone else needed to rest, but Helen usually had evening plans such as dancing, bingo, cards or something else. She graciously stayed with neighbors and gave me her bedroom so I could stay and visit for a few days.

When my own Mother died this past January, it was different. Her long-term Alzheimer's had already taken her from us. Not so with Helen. Oh, at 98 she did get mixed up some, but overall, she was active til the end. She did have her moments - maybe it was her superior age that made her feel in charge of everything sometimes. However, I feel privileged to have known this more than spry woman. Her "never stop living" attitude is an example to us all.

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