SEPTEMBER 12, 1999

I’m so glad to be back here at the First Parish Church. Since I last saw some of you in June when I did the first of the summer services (while Dick and Judy were away to General Assembly), I’ve had a quiet, reflective and yet stressful summer. If this sounds like a contradiction, I think my story will explain that. I spent most of my summer at home in East Bridgewater, preparing for two events—some major surgery in early August and the departure of our daughter for her freshman year of college over Labor Day Weekend.

Despite doctor’s visits and tests to prepare for my surgery, I was able to have some fun in July. I had the joy of leading a Friday morning service at the Doolittle Home, the Universalist retirement home in Foxboro. It was my first visit to the Doolittle Home and I thought it was rather a nice, attractive, comfortable place. I had the pleasure of eating lunch with two of the residents afterward and getting a guided tour of the home. I thought I wouldn’t mind retiring there myself some day. It is certainly worthy of our support as UUs since it relies on private donations for part of its support.

My husband, David, our daughter, Leah, her boyfriend and I got to visit some my relatives on the Cape over the Fourth of July weekend, where my brother and his wife have a summer home. We visited David’s brother and his new wife up in Vermont, outside of Montpelier. Both visits were very pleasant and all too brief. One hot afternoon, David and I visited the DeCordova Museum, a lovely museum of modern art in the town of Lincoln. David and I hadn’t been there since one of our first dates, I think back in 1970, and the museum had undergone a major building program since then. Although this second visit was in the middle of the horrible heat wave of July, we enjoyed the gigantic and whimsical outdoor sculptures (while trying to stay under the shade tress as much as possible.

Leah and I spent time shopping for school clothes and supplies for college. My goal was to finish this early, not knowing how I would feel after surgery in August. I did a lot of reading, including a few chapters in two huge books on women’s health to inform myself and to be mentally prepared for my surgery. We celebrated my 52nd birthday at the end of July by going out to a fine Italian restaurant in Bridgewater.

Then came the big day, the date of my surgery, Monday, August 9, which I approached with some nervousness and trepidation… naturally. Luckily, the surgery went very smoothly. It was the two days and nights in the hospital and the recuperation afterward at home that was the challenge. My hospital stay wasn’t made any easier having a roommate who was extremely ill, in great pain, and at times semi-delirious. To look at her, one felt she didn’t have many months to live. I felt terribly sorry for her, at times depressed by her obvious suffering. We talked a bit, which I hoped relieved some of her loneliness and kept her in touch with reality, at least for a while. It may have kept her mind off her pain. She also caused me to reflect a lot on my own good fortune. I was able to look forward to total recovery within a month or so. I suddenly appreciated the little things in life—like being able to get up and take a shower on my own, being able to read and amuse myself, being able to communicate my needs, wishes and thoughts clearly to the nurses and visitors.

I’ve healed quite quickly and well over the last month. I have to thank my husband and daughter for taking good care of me at home. I’d also like to thank Dick and Ellie for visiting me in the hospital and Judy for visiting me at home and taking me out to lunch and shopping… and for all your phone calls and get well cards. We delivered Leah to college this past weekend. I held my breath as we drove away, hoping and praying that everything would go well for her… and missing her already.

These are some of the lessons I learned this summer:
New bifocals make reading a lot easier.
Reading can be fun when not done under a deadline.
There aren’t many good movies on TV, even with cable and pay-per-view.
I’m blessed with having relatively good health.
Its often the little things in life that can give you pleasure, that make it worth living.
That the beauty of cut flowers is inversely proportional to their lifespan in a mixed bouquet… meaning the prettiest flowers die first.
That getting up and walking as soon as you can is great mental and physical therapy, even if the first few steps are very shaky.
That the thoughtfulness of friends, even the smallest gestures, can have great meaning and be very touching.
That its tough to send your child off to college, especially your only child… although on the other hand there’s a lot less laundry and cleaning to do.
That its good to have other plans for what you want to do with the rest of your life when your nest is empty.
That to be aware of death makes our lives all the more meaningful, more human. As Rev. Peter Fleck wrote in The Blessings of Imperfection, "To the degree that we accept the inevitability of death do we realize the wonder of life… [W]e give thanks for the dear gift of life, with all its pain and sorrow, its joys and delights."