Chapter Seven

The Final Chapter

Final Stages of Life

I am now in the years considered as “old age”. At least I know my grandchildren see me as old, as I did my grandparents when I was their ages. I have gone from being a nurses’ aide in a nursing home to running them, to running for Legislative office four times, serving for 8 years, to working as a state employee in aging and mental health, to being the Executive Director of the statewide Kansas Public Health Association. Then, at the age of 61 I ran for the Topeka City Council and was elected, and found out that local politics is much harder than state politics. I held that position for almost 5 years and did not run for reelection, but rather became the Trustee of Chief Justice Kay E. McFarland Estate, who was my husband’s boss. Kay and I became very close in friendship with her love of gardening, animals, and cooking. I went over the last year and a half of her life to her home to check on her and interview her for her “life story” for a project I was working on “Lasting Legacy” which is the telling one’s life. She was so very supportive. Her help in getting this business started made my dreams come true. My Legacy will be creating something that leaves many legacies. Around 2010, the “Chief”, as we called her, asked me to lunch and told me she wanted me to be her Trustee. She said I would value her things and find use for them when she was gone. We both were very frugal people. She had gotten very close to both Howard and I, and we had been to many meals together. We celebrated her birthdays and even threw her a surprise birthday party on her 65thbirthday. With tears in her eyes as she left our house that night, she said, “no one has ever given me a surprise birthday party, not even my parents”. During the 17 years together before she died we celebrated the holidays together, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a couple July 4th’s. We became her family, since she did not have anyone. The relationship continued after she retired, and then even after my husband retired. I’ve always worked in a helping profession, and believe I’ve been involved and will continue to be involved with many noble causes in the name of health and human services. The main job of being the Trustee of her estate is the building of a wonderful Asian Garden at the Topeka Zoo. It has been a huge undertaking. Thank goodness Howard is also dedicated to getting everything done and does not receive a dime for doing it.

Reflection

"Trouble" has not been a focus of my life, although I went through plenty of difficult times in my life, but, as I've always said, I'm a survivor. I believe my mom has always had my back, even after she died. I can honestly say I know what it is like to be poor, and hungry. I know what it is like to work 3 jobs, and I know what it is like to lose loved ones. But, my parents left me with formative years of believing if I worked hard and was a good person, I would go far in life. My true dream job has now happened to being an entrepreneur. I wanted to help people tell their life stories. In 2000 to 2004, I researched and began the idea of an internet program that would help people tell their life stories. I narrowed it down to 75 questions for one’s life’s story. These are the questions I answered for this story and those for Chief Justice McFarland, creating “LastinglegacyOnline.com”. I want to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I believe my youngest son has gotten some of his creativity from me and I hope to find something that I can use my ingenuity and will make an impact on society. I know I’ll never leave anything like what many women have in their lives, but I hope that touching the lives of others with my creativity and talents will be remembered by many. For the longest time, the words I used the most were, “Have a nice day”. Maybe it was a subconscious effort to tell myself to do that, as I rushed about and believed that the future would be better. My favorite saying would be, “There’s nobody better than you in the world, and you are no better than anybody else.” And, my second best would be, “Above all else, learn to laugh, and laugh at yourselves.”

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