So many things have happened over the last week or so, and I am still synthesizing. Sometimes, writing helps me do that. We’ll see if this is one of those times.
A very dear friend and professional mentor died on September 22nd. Phyllis Tickle had the amazing gift of being BFFs with thousands of us, I think. She saw the light in each and every person she ever met, and had the ability to shine it just where it needed to be. We met at a conference probably three decades ago (am I really getting that old?). I was trying to get off the fast track professionally, but Phyllis put me right back on it. After a leisurely chat by the hotel pool, we were friends from there on, and talked on the phone almost daily for a year. She decided I was a writer, and when Phyllis decided something it was best just to go along for the ride. She is the reason a publisher came looking for me and offering me a book contract, and a number of others followed. She heard my voice long before I did.
She did that, literally, for thousands of us. Where she found the time and graciousness I will never know. And she did it with her Southern charm and straight-forward talk. Beating around the bush was a gift Phyllis lacked, thankfully. She captivated rooms filled with thousands of people, and each person in the room felt they knew her, and she knew them. She synthesized information and presented it in ways that amazed and often entertained, and she was always right on target.
When she announced to the world that she had lung cancer and only a few months to live, I started a Facebook group to let all of us who were mourning already tell our stories and be with one another. Even in the midst of radiation and all kinds of misery she took time to write me a note thanking me, not only for the group, but for a lifetime of good memories. It is impossible to describe how much we all miss her.
She left all of us with a final gift, and that is her lack of fear of dying. In part it was her deep Christian faith, and in part a near-death experience from her younger days that she only recently began to talk about. I have to share a very short video of her talking about death, not only to give you a flavor of the woman we all called the Divine Ms. T., but of her experience, which takes away my own fear of dying. There is no need to pray that she rest in peace – we know she does.
In the midst of all of that, I have been caring for seven kittens at the start of their lives, rescued from a horrible situation. All of them malnourished, underweight, and sick when rescued, they are doing well now. Close to normal weights all of them, and their eye and respiratory problems are gone, except for one little girl. But she’s improving loads the last few days and should be 100% soon. (If you want to see something pathetic, put an e-collar on a 3 lb kitten…so sad!!) The only time I ever fostered a cat before, I became one of the statistic foster fails – Sheyden was a diabetic, and in need to huge amounts of help, so I adopted him and nursed him through the last six months of his life. But with seven of our own cats, I am determined not to be a foster failure again. All should be going to actual fosters who are part of local rescue groups in the next week or so. Still…they are so stinkin’ cute!!
The day after Phyllis died, I twisted my ankle so thoroughly that I’m lucky nothing broke. My foot looked more like one belonging to an elephant than a person, but with all the colors of the rainbow throughout. It is healing and will be fine soon, but it might have been nature’s way of slowing me down for a little bit. You can’t walk fast on a sprained ankle.
And then a week after Phyllis died, I turned 60, which feels just fine to me. Each decade has been better than the last so far, so I’m good with hitting another decade mark. Besides, Marley took me out to a very nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, so what’s not to love?
So, lots happening. Not sure how it all fits together, and I’m not sure the recording helped, but maybe I’ll read this tomorrow and have an ah-ha moment. It has been one of those circle-of-life times, with baby kittens, and dying friends, and getting older myself, and I guess we just keep keepin’ on until we don’t anymore. And when my day comes, I truly hope that one of the saints who will greet me will be the Divine Ms. T. It would be good to hug her again.