My family founded a writers conference that has met every June now for twenty years (you probably remember me talking about it back over the Summer) and, through this group of writers, we have met some of the most wonderful people.
One of those people was Miss Lola.
She was a regular at the conference and my smile always brightened one-hundred-fold when I saw her walk through the doors.
Miss Lola was near 80, I guess, the first time we met her and she was 93 when she died this psat week. But she was no "old lady."
Lola had traveled to many places around the world, had interviewed hundreds of people, did photography, wrote several books, had children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, and was absolutely going strong until the moment she had a stroke and hit her head when she fell. Ninety three years wasn't holding her back! When I heard the news of how she died, I imagined that she'd been skipping--not creeping, or trudging, or tiptoeing--down the stairs as she got ready to go off on some new adventure. For she had a sense of wonder and enthusiasm that belied her years.
I was always amazed by this lady's youthfulness. She was absolutely the youngest looking 93-year-old I'd ever met. Her skin was vivid and her eyes bright; she walked with barely a hesitation and talked almost as animatedly as my four-year-old. If I'd seen her on the street, I would have guessed she was 75-years-old.
Just this past Summer I'd asked her how she stayed so young. I imagine she got that question all the time, but she laughed a little bit and indulged me with her wisdom anyway.
She answered that there were three things you had to keep active--your body, your mind, and your spirit.
Miss Lola wasn't a proponent of sitting still. Of lying on the couch. Of feeling old and relegating herself to the bed. She said you needed to be doing something all the time. Your body needed to keep moving--walking, exercising.
And you couldn't let your mind get lazy. Always try and be learning something new, she told me. Read a book, ask questions, be curious.
And the third part I already knew to be true. Miss Lola was a woman of great faith, and she didn't she just talk it. She lived it in the way she reached out to other people.
It's women like Miss Lola who make me think it might be all right to live into my 90s. I've never been a big fan of living long just to be alive. What's the point of that, if you're not healthy and don't have your wits about you? But if I could live long like Miss Lola? Then sign me up.
When I heard about Miss Lola's death, I cried a few tears. I told the girls about it, because they had met her and been amazed like I had of her youth, and they cried a little bit too.
But then I stopped and realized what a joy she was, and how her life had blessed me. And I had only known her really in passing...someone I saw once a year. How she must have blessed those who had her in their lives all the time.
So, rest in peace, Miss Lola Autry. It was a treat to know you.