The world lost a special lady this past week. My cousin, Dorothy Wise, died peacefully in her sleep. I'm so glad God chose to take her home that way because she was a really neat person. At age 33, she married her husband, Doc (Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Wise -- no lie). He was pretty cool, too, and together they then had 6 children in the next 9 years! She was a loving and enthusiastic mother, wife, homemaker, room mother, water skier (on Lake Springfield...where they lived) golfer and tennis player...and later grandmother and great grandmother. After her children were grown, she studied piano at the Community College. She maintained an active life to the end despite a stroke in 1994 that left her in a wheelchair.
All of this is remarkable, indeed, but the thing that I liked most about her was her spirit. You would think that a person who had been confined to a wheelchair for 14 years would, at best, be "resigned" to her situation...and, at worst, feel sorry for herself. But that wasn't Dorothy. Here are a couple of excerpts from her 2005 Christmas letter: "Many heavy snows left me housebound. This allowed me to enjoy the winter views from the living room"...."My doctor told me about a place he visits called Wesley Acres Adult Day Center. He told me that it would be a good place for me to socialize...At first I was apprehensive but my apprehension gave way to enjoyment as I began to flex a little right handed muscle during all manner of athletic events. As the "new kid on the block" I dominated in bowling, baseball and basketball. The baseball game is a bean bag toss game. The location of your toss determines the play. At my first at bat, I hit a home run." And when she had to go into a nursing home this past year, she told us (again in her Christmas letter) like this: "My move to Wesley marks the biggest event of my year. I enjoyed the four years I lived with Lisa, Alan and Max, but the time was right for me to move on. And what better place than Wesley where I had been spending my days, making friends and keeping my mind and body busy? I have attended all manner of musical events including the Des Moines Symphony, jazz concerts, Dixieland picnics, and piano sing a longs. My friends and I have shopped 'till we dropped and fished and picnicked at the Raccoon River Park. I dine on French food and french fries. If variety is the spice of life then life at Wesley is a savory stew of activity." When is the last time you heard an assisted care home described that way?
So it was that on Thursday she went to mass with her daughter, Lisa. Then on Friday she went on a bus trip with her friends at Wesley. Then Saturday night...in her sleep...the angels came and took her home. I think she would agree with Jimmy Stewart in saying, "It's a wonderful life". Thank you, Dorothy, for the fine example of a life well lived.