It seems to me that I have been traveling through a revolving door this past week, and I have gained a new insight into the way people think and how much of a common denominator a shared threat can become.
This insight came from talking to folks who are separated by nearly a one-hundred-year life span.
Let me share the story with you. I was pleasantly surprised when my friend, Jettie Ruth Blue, called me while I was in Live Oak and asked if I had seen her grandson Ryan’s Facebook post. I told her I had not and she went on to tell me it was a very heart-warming tribute to his grandfather, Dave, who had died in 2013. I ended the call with a promise to check it out as soon as I got home.
Following through on my promise I opened Ryan’s page later that afternoon and saw the gorgeous photo of the sunrise he had taken. Ryan, in his early thirties, had shared his grandfather’s words that simply said, “I was told a long time ago you’re only given so many of these, so you better enjoy them. This is the prettiest part of the day, and a lot of people rarely see it.” Of course, the words were referring to each sunrise we are privileged to enjoy as a new day dawns.
I had already decided to write about my lovely Aunt Margaret Taylor, age 99. Her family anticipated her 100th birthday on Feb. 20, 2021, but God had other plans and took her home Saturday night, May 2. Please allow me to honor her memory with a few outstanding facts. She held the distinction of being the oldest living graduate of Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville. Her graduation in 1940 was on the brink of America’s involvement into a world war that became a reality after the Japanese bombed the American fleet on Dec. 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Nevertheless, Aunt Margaret went on to forge a meaningful life when she married and completed her family with three children. Her two sons, Dewey and Tommy, served our country through military service and her daughter, Bernice Ruth, affectionately known as Bunny Ruth to family and friends retired from the academic world after teaching several years at a Jacksonville college.
Her later years found her playing the role of ‘Mama Claus’ when Dewey became the beloved ‘Santa Claus’ every year for the Christmas holiday. His fame as the ‘real-bearded Santa’ is a favorite around the Jacksonville area including visits to hospitals and private homes for photo sessions.
When Aunt Margaret put away her red and white she never sat idle. Those of us that are fortunate enough to have been given one of her crocheted afghans are truly blessed. Although the years had gnarled her hands with age she continued to pick up the crochet hook and produce one-of-a-kind useful gifts numbering in the hundreds right up until days before her departure. Margaret Taylor knew the value and beauty of another sunrise and was thankful for each new day.
I see a similarity in her story with the story unfolding for the 2020 graduates. I had the pleasure of talking with several of them recently and was impressed with the positive responses I garnered from our conversation. Rather than wallow in self-pity at having one of the most important milestones of their life erased, I found that the same positive attitude that resided in those decades older than them was shining brightly as they looked forward to their future.
Having began their school years with the tragedy of 9/11 still casting a long shadow over America and 13 years later having their graduation ceremony snatched away by an invisible enemy in COVID-19 you might have rightly expected them to voice outrage at providence that seemed determined to cheat them of earned recognition. I found just the opposite — sure they are disappointed and wish that the circumstances that brought their plans to a halt had never appeared on the scene, but their expectancy of seeing another sunrise and all the opportunities it may carry has given them the same mindset as Margaret Taylor, Dave Walker and Ryan Walker.
“You’re only given so many sunrises …” the appreciation of the gift begins with understanding what you are given. Decades of years separate them, but the promise of a new day gives them hope and determination to make every sunrise count.