Stories of Resilience: Kathryn

I don’t think Kathryn’s life was ever easy. She lost her husband when he was in his 50s, and, years later, one daughter committed suicide, and another rejected the whole family and dropped all contact with her mother. Yet I never saw Kathryn’s love of life quashed, even in her final years when her lungs started failing her.

She loved to travel, first with her husband, then with friends and later with her second husband—all over the world. She loved to sing and was in the choir; later, when she moved into a retirement facility, she put on concerts for the residents. There, she also started a newsletter and encouraged others to contribute. She took a poetry class and started writing poetry.  When her second husband became ill, she devoted herself to taking care of him, but still left time in her life for staying active with all her responsibilities.

When poor health forced her to move into an assisted living facility, she realized that fellow residents’ constant complaints about the place did no good, so she organized an advisory group to meet with the facility’s manager on a regular basis. The result was better communication and an improved place to live.

When she called to tell me that she was on hospice, she told me she hadn’t told her friends at the facility. She didn’t want them treating her any differently. Besides, she still had work to do with the advisory group, needed to find someone who could replace her when she was gone.

A few weeks before she died, she sent me the link to a video of her singing to another resident who was on her deathbed. That was typical of Kathryn: wanting to bring comfort but in her own way: using her beautiful voice to lift the dying woman’s spirits.

I didn’t get to see Kathryn before she died—she was on the other side of the country—but I hope someone sang to her. Maybe it was the angels.

If you have a story about someone–a friend, parent, spouse–who has demonstrated their own resilience in aging, please send to me, Kathy Kaiser, at kathyakaiser@gmail.com.

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