Her Legacy Lives…

I am the eldest daughter of Betty Johnson.  I live at Providence Place, a senior residence in Holyoke, MA.  I recently learned that one of our new arrivals had lived and raised her family in the neighboring town of South Hadley, my home town.

My mother, the physical educator, had taught her children to jump rope in elementary school. In fact, as the force of nature my mother was, she had the whole town jumping rope, something her students remember to this day.

It was a total “kick” listening to my new neighbor tell me about the reaction of her son when she shared that she was living in a community with Mrs. Johnson’s daughter.   After 50 years, my mother’s legacy lives on, just because of who she was.  Her lifelong passion to keep people healthy, moving,  and having fun, left an indelible mark on the individual lives she touched.  (And, this is not the first person from whom I’ve heard a similar story.)

Now, at 77, I’m aware that my remaining days are numbered.  What will be my legacy?   I still have things I want to do.  To the extent that they’ll ripple out, I have no idea.  What about you?

What’s your later-in-life passion and how do you want to share it?

Better yet, what’s your intention and how do you intend to live it?

I’m planning to age gracefully,  die well and help others do the same… meaning not leave a mess for my survivors.  I want to write and publish two books that reside in my soul. I want to fill my days with nourishing activities, such that as I age,  I remain a cheerful companion to friends and family.

Who knows what my “legacy” will be?  Whether I am remembered for them or not, I’m content with what I deem as worthy ways to be in the world for my remaining days.

How about you?


Thoughts for our times

Sometimes an unexpected and spontaneous “initiation” to the next stage of life looks…well…pretty ugly. Particularly when that’s not the name you are able to give it in the moment. Nevertheless, take time to breathe, grieve, pause, allow, and be curious.  It’s possible that that another part of the you that seeks to be known and loved, is struggling to arrive. Make space for it.

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.  To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.             CYNTHIA OCCELLI


A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences  and knowledge that  we could not possible achieve in any other way.         DEENA METZGER

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.            HOWARD THURMAN

During your third chapter years, or at any time that these questions resonate with you:  What do you need to learn? What do you wish to let go of?   What makes you come most alive?  And,  will you dare to explore that?

Death is not the enemy

Death is not the enemy; let contemplating our mortality focus our choices about how we spend our remaining days.

On a slow day of a winter storm, I sent out my occasional “musings” newsletter to friends and family and interested others. Now 77, I find myself increasingly playing with elements of my own aging journey and commenting on it. In that February “musing”, I invited folks to pay attention to the losings and the losses that occur as we age. I suggested considering them a “part of initiation” that helps us contemplate the new age stage we enter.

While I sometimes worry that folks will be discouraged about later life, as opposed to  considering the invitation to reflect and choose among all kinds of possibilities for the future, I am pleased when I receive affirmation. I was delighted by this response from my 66-year old friend, Lynda Overlock.

Martha, thank you so much for your latest “musing”. I always knew that more friends and associates would pass away when I reached this age…but I was unprepared to lose 14 in the past 12 weeks! Those deaths brought into sharper focus what we’ve been exploring, since some had good deaths, while others did not have people around them to ease their transition.

I’ve redoubled my efforts to complete some paperwork, make my wishes known to ALL my family (not just immediate), and I’ve given my pastor a copy of my end-of-life directives.

Personally, I’m continuing to weave baskets, and have joined a study group that’s reading Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin, that deals with social justice issues. I’ve been substitute teaching, but limit it to one or two days per month. I still tutor on Wed. afternoons at the library. So I’m keeping busy.  (end of note)

I thank Lynda. It warms my heart to remember the days we spent in our open discussions at the senior center during 2014-15.  How much those conversations seem to help all of us focus on the variety of issues that require our attention in later life..the living fully, the graceful aging, and the dying well.