Monday, November 22, 2010


My aunt, my mom's younger sister, spent her career teaching English as a second language at Stanford University. When she retired, she and her husband moved to Cloverdale. She decided to learn to paint - and immediately threw herself into classes, studying the masters, and within a few years, was exhibiting her work at the local arts alliance gallery. She is also a very active volunteer, tutoring at the high school, working with the Friends of the Library, and seemily involved in everything community-minded.

She has battled cancer for more than a decade, and yet despite chemo and constant health issues, she continues forward, moving her frail body always into new ventures, and always into the service of others.

Last month, she had a stroke, and was partially paralyzed on her right side. Fairly quickly, she began to regain mobility, but of course, it was still a tremendous and unexpected blow for someone only 66 years old. She had little movement of her right hand, and I kept thinking, "How unfair! Just when she has found such joy in her art!" She spent a week in the hospital, then came home to work on physical and occupational therapy.

This past week, I called her to see how she was doing. Although her speech is slower, and somewhat slurred, this is what she had to report. On election day, she had walked the eight blocks to the polls, and the eight blocks home again, unassisted. She may have to use a cane on rainy days for stability, but other than than, no more walker. The day before my phone call, she had completed her final days of physical and occupational therapy - and returned to her job tutoring at the high school.

She said her handwriting wasn't quite what she would like. She can print, but cannot write cursive. She doesn't have the fine motor skills she needs to paint. "But," she said cheerily, "I was thinking I'd try some printmaking anyway."

I am so struck by her incredible tenacity and strength of spirit. There is not an ounce of self-pity in her. She tackles each day as it comes, and moves as quickly as she cans towards healing and normalcy, refusing to be stopped by her limited body.

What an amazing example of will! May I prove as graceful if and when I face similar health challenges.

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