Lessons from Lois

My friend Lois died yesterday afternoon of old age. She was 97 and a joyful person all the many years that I knew her. For the last dozen years or so, Lois was blind from macular degeneration. For the last 2.5 years, she was in memory care. Prior to that, she lived in her home lovingly cared for by her children, grandchildren and home Healthcare staff. I rarely heard Lois complain if ever.. She might say something self criticizing for her weight which was a struggle for her. Or,, I might hear her say “I could complain but what good would that do me”. During COVID-19 lockdown, I couldn’t see her but I could call her on the phone and chat. It was difficult to tell if she knew who I was or if the many questions she asked were her way to cover her confusion. I loved those talks. Lois was always an encourager, helping me to see the positives in the day. When I would say goodbye and wish her a good day, she would say it was a wonderful day already because I had called.

I met Lois when I met her two daughters Barb and Beth and the rest of the Higgins family as a teenager. Barb, Beth, and I have been lifelong friends. Lois was always cheerful, interested, listened with compassion and generally helped me to feel good about myself. She believed that you offer your advice only when it was really needed. I needed that advice on more than one occasion. My husband and I made it a practice to visit Lois and her husband Dick whenever we were in Des Moines, usually 3-4 times a year. When our children were young, they came with us and visiting the Higgins house is a good memory for them. We were always welcome. When I was in my 30s, I had a tendency to complain about my mother and my mother in law for one thing or another. Lois let me know that wasn’t ok. She said that she didn’t go for the “blame your parents” theme of the time and encouraged me to see that my parents were doing the best they could and I needed to be thankful. Lois rarely corrected me so I was taken aback. I hadn’t realized that my comments sounded so negative. I learned to appreciate my mother and my mother in law in a new way and developed a close relationship with each of them that I cherish. I thank Lois for that revelation and for guiding me to treasure the women that I loved so much.

My memories of Lois include how warm and welcoming her house always was. I always felt like I belonged. She remembered my birthdays and always asked about my parents, my husband, and my children. Lois and her husband Dick, who died in 2013 were a model of a good marriage to us. When my husband Michael and I coached engaged couples for 20 years, we used little stories of how we saw Dick and Lois live out a good marriage. I knew they had arguments like everyone else but they didn’t have those arguments in public. We learned to be supportive of each other and save tough conversations for private time

I lost both my mother in law and my mother in 2012. Lois was a comfort to me. In her later years, she forgot that they were gone and she would ask me about them. For a brief moment, they would be there before I reminded Lois that they had died. My dad died in 2019 the same day that Lois lost her son Doug. Their funerals were on the same day in different states. I couldn’t imagine her pain and hoped that her dementia would ease her pain as she lived mentally in earlier times.

While life has given Lois many challenges, she always focused on the blessings and a positive way to respond. She also always left others with a positive thought. She has been an important role model in my life and I will miss her. From Lois to all of us, listen with love, encourage others, do what you can, don’t take yourself too seriously, be willing to lovingly say what needs to be said, argue if you must and do it in private, look at the positives and live this day joyfully.

Love and prayers,

Mymom