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Such is the perspective of Leah Friedman, octogenarian author of this slim book of essays that is available on Amazon; its sepia photo of a framed drying bulb, one taken by her, portends to the richness found on each page.

Through the lens of seasoned wisdom, she counters the strictures of ageism with anecdotes from her kaleidoscopic life as an academic, wife, mother, widow, grand- and great-grandmother, photographer, author, lecturer, friend. Beneath them, stirs a vibrant and inquisitive spirit, because of which her aging readers readily identify with her. In unvarnished words she lays out the terrain of her sixties, seventies, and eighties, each with their tasks and challenges, not without losses and unexpected surprises. Referencing poets, psychologists, and theologians nuances her impressions within a larger frame.

An adept with life-long change, she can now say, “On one level I am awaiting my demise, while at a deeper level I am continually in the process of discovering who I really am.”


An early memory in a crowded store, decorated for Christmas, still chills me. My hand sought Mother’s, somewhere above my head, but it was hard, cold. It belonged to a mannequin.

To my dismay, such moments still occur.

But there’s hope. I recently discovered a spirited companion for my inner orphan, little Elizabeth. Her name is Anne, the redheaded, freckled, eleven-year old in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables, (1908). We first meet Anne, alone, seated upon a bed of tiles on a train platform, waiting for her third adopted family to pick her up, her worn carpetbag at her feet. Reticent, sixtyish, bachelor, Mathew Cuthbert soon arrives in his buggy and together they return to Green Gables, the farm that he shares with his spinster sister, Marilla.

Anne’s love for reading, her imaginative flights, her temper, and her incessant chatter soon endear her to this unlikely set of parents and her classmates. She rebounds from repeated scrapes and soon emerges into a bright, sensitive, young woman with a teaching career and college courses ahead of her. Key to this development is the stern presence of Marilla, often swallowing her giggles and grounding Anne in the practical realities of living.

In Marilla’s guidance of Anne, I discovered a model in relating with little Elizabeth. She’s already benefitting from my attention and shares her hilarity with me. Nothing is ever that serious!


A seasoned woman, whose quiet mirth has tickled us, is preparing to leave. A seasoned woman, whose heart-love cherished us, is relocating to Baltimore, Maryland, her simple belongings packed into a van. Now in the care of her married daughter, in the care of the assisted living staff, in the care of her new church community, in the care of the next women’s group she will discover, she will move through her end-days.

Caring lines etch her wizened face. Cropped white hair sets off her dark eyes, that bespeak unseen realities, a faraway wisdom. No longer does she live in the past or future. The present moment, one slipping seamlessly into the next, satisfies.

She has become deeply woman – as nurse, as physician’s wife, as mother of two daughters, as grandmother, as widow, as church member of Second Baptist, as neighbor in Brentwood Forest in St. Louis, Missouri, as friend and confidante of many. She has not flinched from life. She has been stretched, pained, challenged, cast adrift, bewildered, puzzled.

Yet within her angst lies the paradox of her continuing transformation. Within her hollowing, the hollowing of Another. Within fresh tears of this separation lies hilarity in the face of more diminishment. Within her darkness lies the Steadfast Light illuming her next step.

This is Jo. We will miss her very much, especially her Mickey Mouse hat.

Available on Amazon

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