At the beginning of the 1900s, they couldn't have dreamed that horsepower would someday boost a space shuttle into orbit. They couldn't know that the Man in the Moon of nursery rhymes would become a Man on the Moon in the 1960s. During their lifetimes, the U.S. would be governed by 19 presidents.
I had the unique opportunity to interview two amazing women in January. I do some writing for a Hutchinson retirement community's newsletter, and the assignment was to explore the stories of the facility's two oldest residents. One of these women was 106 years old, and the other 105.
Neither believed they had a special story to tell. But their story is the story of the U.S. through the 20th Century, through the eyes of two who lived through the landmarks of more than 100 years. While many of the events they experienced are the stuff of history books, it is how those changes directly impacted their own lives and families that made the biggest impression.
For example, for the 105 year old, World War I was the time when her brother went away to war. For the 106 year old, World War I didn't really impact her childhood because she wasn't personally touched by it. However, World War II was a time of great growth and sacrifice for her. She cared for her three little daughters while her husband served as an Army doctor overseas.
They experienced the Depression and dusted the furniture during the Dust Bowl days. They witnessed the widespread electrification of homes and businesses. They answered everything from telephone party lines to princess phones to tiny cell phones. They went from roads fit for a buggy to the superhighway called the Internet. Both agree it was an amazing time to be alive.
The 106 year old was born in 1903, the same year that the Ford Motor Company produced its first car, the Model A. She was born just a few months before the Wright Brothers' famous flight at Kitty Hawk. It's just mind-boggling to contemplate, right?
She recorded her life story in a three-ring notebook with reflections about a century of living. By the time I was assigned the story, she was unable to talk much to me. But I visited with two of her daughters, and I read every word she'd written carefully in long hand.
But as amazing as all the "landmark events" in her lifetime, it was her family she considered as her legacy.
"The accomplishment of which I am most proud is the raising of our three daughters," she wrote. "We, my husband and I, gave them all the love we had, but with it good advice, firm discipline, a fine Christian knowledge and a happy experience. We tried to instill fine moral standards and trust. We tried to be a good example, but we respected their choices in life. ... I am proud of them, and if I have accomplished something acceptable, I am happy and grateful. The bottom line is love and happiness and faith.
"My goal has been to live life day by day and enjoy it. To be a loving and caring person. To be loved by friends and family and respected by all. And be happy with it. A smile on your face is worth so much more than a frown. I would like to be remembered as a happy, caring, unselfish woman, one who holds a strong belief in God through faith, love and hope.
"This life of mine has continued far longer than I expected with good health and a deep faith, also with many wonderful blessings. My best contribution to the world? Who is to say? One thing I know, I have lived long enough to see three daughters with their children and grandchildren live lives of honesty, trustworthiness, love for one another and a fine spiritual background, unselfishness and high morals. I have seen the love of true friends and a positive attitude about life. Hopefully, I have touched someone to carry on with a smile. I am truly blessed."
Not long after I completed the story, she died at age 106. But, she had also addressed death while contemplating her life. She wrote:
"I do not fear death and have prepared for it. ... We all wonder about the afterlife, but that is a mystery that God has kept from us, and it is well."
What legacy are we, as woman, leaving for our families, our church, our community, our country and our world?
Recently, I took a meal to a new mother (and took the photo above). She is just beginning this journey with her newborn daughter. I was struck by the tiny hand nestled in her mother's hand. We, as women, have an important job. As that mother nurses her newborn, she gives life itself to her precious baby. She does this no matter the time - day or night - making sure the baby is getting enough food to grow.
But there is other important food to share, too. Several years ago, our Sunday School class studied Stormie Omartian's book, "The Power of a Praying Parent."
In the preface, she quotes Lamentations 2:19:
"Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children."
Yes, it is important to feed and clothe our children and put a roof over their heads. It's important to teach them and mold them. But it's also our legacy to PRAY for them.
As Omartian says in her book: "Our children's lives don't have to be left to chance. We don't have to pace the floor anxiously, biting our nails, gnawing our knuckles, dreading the terrible twos or tortuous teens. We don't have to live in fear of what each new phase of development might bring, what dangers might be lurking behind every corner.
"Nor do we have to be perfect parents. We can start right now - this very minute - making a positive difference in our child's future.
"It's never too early and never too late. It doesn't matter if the child is 3 days old and perfect or 30 years old and going through a third divorce because of an alcohol problem. At every stage of their lives, our children need and will greatly benefit from our prayers.
"The key is not to do it by ourselves all at once, but rather turning to the expert parent of all time - our Father God - for help."
We get so caught up in what's for supper and getting the completed homework stuffed back into the backpack that we sometimes forget spiritual food.
But prayer is the best legacy of all that we, as women, can provide for our own children, our community's children or even the children of the world.
"Pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest."
Phillippians 4: 6,7 (The Living Bible)
Just a little Food for Thought today: What's your legacy?