No doubt we would have been preparing to celebrate Phoebe’s birthday this weekend. While the actual date of her birth fell on February 20, her calendar of festivities filled rather quickly. I imagine this year would have been especially so, being her one-hundredth celebration and all.
Alas, she bid her final farewell at ninety-nine. And for most of those ninety-nine years, we knew nary a thing of this girl from Riverside, California . . .
We knew her not when entered this world in 1918; when she graduated from Kuna High School in 1935; or when she attended Pioneer Business College in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1936 . . . when she worked in military communications during World War II; or when she married the love of her life in 1948 . . . when she lived in New York; or when she returned to Boise, into that grand old house on twenty-second street . . . when she worked for the tax commission; when she raised show dogs; when she traveled about, amassing one adventure after another.
No, we knew nary a thing of her until she joined the “old girls” at “the home.” By that time she’d be quick to shoo away a camera for fear it would make her look old; and she was more than ready to accept her boarding pass to the great beyond–to be reunited with those she loved most of all.
But unlike some who tire of this world, she rarely complained; instead, she chose to make the most of each day. And despite the years that layered one upon another, she continued to have a youthful gleam in her eye.
Perhaps its one of the things that made us fast friends.
Despite our age difference, we shared a love of laughter. We shared a love of clouds and the myriad of ways they dance upon the sky. We shared an understanding that the ache of some disappointments (never holding a baby of your own, for instance) never truly goes away; that you can (and most certainly should) make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt, but a twinge of pain continues to tug at your heart.
I imagine if we had been born in the same place, at the same time, we’d have been inseparable. Instead, she paved the way; she showed me how to grow old . . .
In the few short years we knew her, she taught us the importance of looking your best–even when you can no longer wear the shoes you love, or it takes hours to prepare; that wit remains timeless; that friends and family are your anchors–that you should hug, and say “I love you,” and accept those invitations for as long as you can; that age does not have to dim your spark.
Phoebe, brightest of women–she certainly, lived up to her name.
At her memorial service, her niece read aloud one of her favorite poems:
Life owes me nothing. Let the years
Bring cloud or azure, joy or tears;
Already a full cup I’ve qualified;
Already wept and loved and laughed.
And seen, in ever-endless ways,
New beauties overwhelm the days.
Life owes me nought. No pain that waits
Can steal the wealth from memory’s gates;
No aftermath of anguish slow
Can quench the soul fire’s early glow.
I breathe, exulting every breath,
Embracing Life, ignoring Death.
Life owes me nothing. One clear morn
Is boon enough for being born;
And be ninety or ten,
No need for me to question when.
While Life is mine, I’ll find it good.
And greet each hour with gratitude.
Words she obviously took to heart. And if her life is any indication, it would behoove us all to do the same.