Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blog of the Day

I just discovered that Ruthlace was given the honor of being "Blog of the Day" again. Thank you so very much to whoever nominated me. What an encouragement to a an elder writing about growing up in the 1930's! Thanks!
Blog Awards Winner

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How Old Is "Old?"

A year or so ago, two of the teen aged girls at Open Door Home in our city needed to interview an older person for a school assignment. Open Door is a home for children whose parents can not or will not care for them.

I meet the criteria for “older person” so the Director at Open Door, Beth called me and asked if I would mind stopping by so the girls could interview me.

Beth, who holds a Masters in Social Work, has been at Open Door for 10 years and was instrumental in building a much needed Open Door Home for Boys 12 years of age and older in additon to the older home for young children and older girls that was established here in our city 50 years ago.

Beth's good balance between love and discipline has helped to grow the two locations into "Home" for the children and youth rather than a business.

I went by and Beth introduced me to the girls. One of the girls was a 14 year old named Sarah . Beth told me, in Sarah’s hearing, how proud she is of Sarah for making good marks in school. I congratulated Sarah and expressed interest so she immediately got her report card to show me. We had a nice visit.

When we started the interview, the first question Sarah asked was, “To what do you attribute living to such a long old age?” The other girls also asked questions related to "old age." Later when Beth was showing me out, she said she hoped the girls did not hurt my feelings by making such an issue of my “old age.”

Of course, Beth knew as well as I that it did not bother me. When I lived in the Atlanta area, I was not as ancient as I am now but I often spoke to Senior Citizens groups on subjects related to aging as my undergraduate degree included a certificate in Gerontology.

One of the persons I love to quote when I speak to a civic or church group about “aging” is Madeline L’Engle. L'Engle said,“One of the nice things about growing old is you do not lose any of the other ages you have been.”

Wow! Think of that!

It is true. Like Sarah, I know what it was like to be 14 and think 30 is old. I know what it is like to be 30 and think 50 is old. I know what it is like to be 50 and think 80 is old. I know what it is like to be 80 and know that 80 and even 100 is just a number! I know also it is a number nearer the end of the counting.

But at the end of the counting, a new day will dawn and the counting will start over. We gather in church every Sunday to celebrate the truth that what we call “time” does not have the last word over what God calls eternity. For the Christian, "Death" does not have the last word over what God calls "life!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

World War II Veteran still Flying Hang Glider at 89.

World War II Bombardier Still Flying a Hang Glider at Age 89

Anything about a WWII veteran gets my attention and today's piece (10-21-09) about Lieutenant Neal Goss is no exception, although I rarely post daily news items on my blog.

After flying 50 combat missions over two tours of duty in World War II, Neal Goss returned home a reluctant American hero. Sixty-four years later, he has done it again.

World War II veterans are said to be dying at a rate of 900 a day. So time has taken most of our heroes from, what has been said the most devastating and significant war in world history. Time has not robbed the zest from Goss. "I figure that they probably have hang gliders and sail boats up in heaven somewhere,'' he said after one recent flight. "I don't plan on being there anytime soon, but I want to be ready when I get there.''

Goss, a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corp until 1945, served as a bombardier/navigator as part of the Flying Fortress squadron that dropped more than 9,000 tons of bombs and shot down 200 enemy planes during the war. Today, he flies only for the thrill of the sport, soaring in his light, unmotorized aircraft that takes him as high as 6,000 feet above the ground, using body control and thermal drafts to navigate his way across the countryside, providing a view and a freedom that few have enjoyed.

"I'm not a hero (from the war). I didn't think I was brave. I was just doing a job
for my country,'' he said. "This flying now is fun. It makes you feel like one of the birds. I never had this view from inside the bomber.''When he returned home from the War, Goss promised his aging mother that she would be proud, not so much for what he had done for his country, but for the way he would live the rest of his life, so grateful for coming home alive, making sure his time here was well spent. He certainly has gotten his money's worth.At a time when most of his peers have either died or turned to a sedentary lifestyle, Goss keeps pressing the accelerator.

Like many of us, Neal Goss's concessions to age still rankle him, yet he knows how far he can push. He no longer jumps off cliffs and mountains in other parts of the country with his hang glider, preferring the more controlled starts he gets with a tow. He gave up racing motorcycles almost 10 years ago. He no longer sky dives or goes deep sea diving with friends.

Goss stopped wind surfing shortly after he closed his dental practice at age 82, leaving behind patients of 50 years. He stopped making his annual week-long trip to Guatemala, where he provided free dental care to Indians in the poor parts of the country. He has cut back on his sailing, too, although he made a 200-mile voyage just last year down the West Coast of Florida, from his home to the home of his daughters who live in the Tampa area. His biggest regret is being bypassed by NASA several years ago when they were looking for a senior citizen to join a space shuttle flight."They wanted someone with a bigger name, but I've been very fortunate. I wanted to fly since I was a young boy,'' he said. "And I'll do this for as long as they let me, hopefully another 10 years. I would just tell anyone my age to go for it. You have nothing to lose.''Goss is amazingly healthy for 89.

Goss's body remains taut and strong, even though he suffers from a frustrating neurological disorder that affects his speech, making him difficult to understand. His walk is slower now because both his knee joints need replacing. None of that matters, though, when he is soaring close to the clouds, guiding his craft with a veteran's experience, surveying all that is below and above him. He calls it a peek of what to expect in heaven.

He will be part of a flying extravaganza at the nearby Fantasy of Flight attraction Nov. 7-8, when he makes his usual trip to the area during the week of Veterans Day

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Funeral for My Dear Sister

Below is a copy fo the Funeral remarks I made at my dear sister-in-law's funeral,for those who asked. As alays, the written version is not exact to the spoken.

I am the last of nine in my family. Rowena was the wife of my brother Tom and the last of the nine spouses of the children of Wilson and Ieula Baird.

Mrs. Rowena Edge Baird
August 8, 1924 –– September 24, 2008

In the midst of our living, death, in its intrusive way, has once again come to dwell among us. So we gather to comfort one another and to put arms of love around one another...

In my brief 22 years as a pastor, I have conducted dozens of funerals and graveside services, and have participated in dozens more. But today, I hardly know where to start because there are so many things I would like to say ––things that could be said and should be said as we gather this morning to celebrate the life of Rowena Edge Baird –– wife, mother, grandmother and now great grandmother to little Zoe.

Rowena was my sister-in-law, really, my precious sister. She was also Aunt Rowena to a long extended line of nieces and nephews. Numerous family and friends loved Rowena and gather with us today to celebrate her life –– Rowena’s beautiful Christian life . . . her open arms and open life love and her living witness among us.

We gather to celebrate life –– eternal life through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the One whom Rowena trusted and faithfully served as her Savior and Lord.

Both Rowena and I were teen aged brides. My big brother Tom thought I was foolish to marry so young. Then, he later married a precious girl, also still in her teens.

It was 1941 and war clouds were gathering.

So it turned out that Rowena and I went through World War II together. We were both still in our teens when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt declared war on Dec 7, 1941.

A draft was started and 1942 was a scary and bloody time for our generation.

If we were “The Greatest Generation," it was because we were perhaps the last generation where it was politically correct to openly talk about one’s Christian faith.

By 1943, my brother Tom, Rowena’s husband, and Charles Shaw, my husband, were both serving abroad –– Tom in Europe and Charles in the South Pacific.

Rowena lived with my mother who loved her like her own daughter . . . and Rowena loved and honored my mother like her own mother. At the time, Rowena was in a difficult pregnancy; she almost died in giving birth to their beautiful baby boy, Jack, while Tom was overseas.

It was a time when Rowena and I both learned –– or tried to learn –– how to pray.

Down through the years, it was always good for me to know that Rowena Baird was praying for me ...and praying for you…all of you whom she knew.

Rowena continued to be a happy witnessing Christian, devoted to her husband and her son and later her daughter. She had a great sense of humor, was active in her church, including teaching Sunday School. Rowena was a Christian role model any of us would do well to emulate.

Rowena and Tom’s Christian witness continued through some of the most difficult and heart breaking situations any of us could think to have to deal with. Jack, their precious son, died in an accident at age 22. Later, their grandson, Ray –– Jane and Warren’s older son –– died in a plane crash coming home from a Mission Trip to Venezuela.

Their faith in God sustained them and He held them close in His arms in the midst of unspeakable sorrow.

As both Tom and Rowena told me, one does not “get over” the death of a child or grandchild, but somehow they had to learn –– as we all try to learn –– that God doesn’t measure time in the same way we do. Death is a part of every life. We know that our children will die sooner or later. We always pray that it will be “later.” Psalm 90 tells us, “a thousand years is as a day and as a watch in the night.”

I heard Christopher Reeve being interviewed and asked what he had learned in the years since he was paralyzed. He replied that he had learned that “we are not our body.”

Christopher may or may not have known it, but this is the Good News we celebrate today. We all know that our bodies, at best, are wearing out. Thank God we are not our body.

In fact, we are not a ” body with a spirit” as much as we are a "spirit" in a temporary physical body.

Rowena seemed to know last Wednesday afternoon that her body had worn out, so she laid it aside. As Jane and I agreed yesterday: When Rowena took her last breath Wednesday afternoon, she was safe in the arms of Jesus and Tom was waiting for her at the Gate.

At death we come to the end of human knowledge, human power . . . and human comfort. Human beings can go just so far along the path of life with another person. Thus, our precious Jane went as far as she could go with her dear mother on Wednesday; she finally had to let go of her mother’s hand, knowing Rowena was safe in the hands of Jesus.

I am going to close by reading one of my poems that Rowena especially liked.

A few years before my husband died, we bought a cemetery lot –– sight unseen –– in East View Cemetery in Conyers, where Charles’ parents and grandparents are buried.

Charles was still pastor of a busy church, so it was some time before we went down to see the cemetery lot we had bought. We were there late one afternoon and remained as it began to get dark. I noticed lights beginning to go on in homes near the cemetery grounds. It seemed like a parable to me ––like the remembrance of parents leaving a light on until their children returned home at night.

So, I wrote these few simple lines:

My father always left a light for me
Against the nighttime shadows… lovingly
He left the doors unlocked…it opened wide
And I could safely find my way inside!

Beyond the grave…I see a light…I see
The lights of home…God left a light for me,
So I can walk on home…with faith…not fear
I see the Lights of Home…and God is near!

Regardless of what kind of shadows are falling around us today –– this week, Rowena would not want us to walk in the shadows.

Lift up your hearts . . . Look beyond the cemetery…
There is the Light of God … The light of the World
… There is resurrection. Thanks be to God!

Just a short time ago, in a daily email from “Word-a-Day,” a poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindraneth Tagor was quoted, “Death is not extinguishing the light….it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

For Rowena, the dawn of a new day has come.

Her race is run.

Henceforth is laid up for her a crown.
As I close my part of this time of remembrance and celebration of the life of Rowena Baird,

we praise God for this beautiful lady, rich in love and good works . . . friendly . . . always gracious and kind . . . a Christian lady.

Gratefully but ever so reluctantly , we yield back…the gift of Rowena.