Thinking ahead . . .

I never read the obituaries, well practically never, but I have a sister who does, and one morning after I had a wonderful visit with her, I flipped though The Fort Myers News Press and discovered the life of Vera Jane Clapper-Richter. 

I don’t know Jane, nor do I know anyone who does, but I liked her immediately.  She is the kind-of person I would want as a friend, and the kind Katherine Hepburn would play in a movie. 

Jane died at 85 after a struggle with Alzheimer’s, but what struck me is not her death, but how she lived, which I quote, except for the links I added:

She was born July 6, 1924 to Maurice and Elizabeth Stover Teasdale in Brownsville, PA. Jane will be remembered for her feistiness tempered by cheery good humor. She was always up for adventure.

In 1960s, Jane, her mother and her daughter could be found at 2 a.m. hanging off the “wooden bridge” angling for snook with cane poles. Few snook were caught, but much beer was drunk.

Janie married “the boy next door,” Bob Clapper, in 1941 in Arlington, VA. They made it through the war years and, like everyone else, started a family. By 1951, they were ready for sunshine and fishing.

After a brief stay in the Koreshan trailer park in Esterothey settled in Fort Myers. Bob worked as a surveyor and civil engineer for Carl Johnson in Fort Myers and Cap Prewitt in Clewiston and Jane dived into community activities. She taught local Red Cross first aid classes, was Lee County Chairman of the Gray Ladies and worked with Veronica Shoemaker in the first Head Start program in Dunbar.

Her pride and joy was her Girl Scout Troop 29, which she led from Brownies in 1954 until the girls graduated from Fort Myers Senior High School in 1965. She taught them outdoors skills and wilderness survival. Protective of her girls, she once used a flashlight to fight off a wild hog that tried to take over their Fisheating Creek campsite. The hog fled squealing back into the woods.

After Bob’s death, she pursued her dream of investing in real estate, buying and managing several rental properties, then married Clarence Richter, a retired federal air traffic controller, in 1983. She and “Ric” were active in the local chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and Save Estero. Ric died in 2005.

She was a friend of Bill W. for more than 30 years and will be remembered by the old timers at YANA. She’ll also be remembered by her pals on Memory Lane at Park Club assisted living, her home for the last few months, for her sweet helpfulness, lovely singing voice and fashion flair.

On her, even at 85, a paper sack looked like Prada . . .

Jane was predeceased by her two sisters.  She is survived by her daughter, grandson and granddaughter, both of whom helped care for her in her later years.

I hope this is not too morbid for you, but I think Jane’s obituary reflects a well-lived life, and whoever wrote it obviously loved and admired her.  Reading it got me thinking – ahead. 

I decided that I am going to live my life for my obituary.  I wish I had thought of starting at the end and working backwards sooner, I would have been nicer, more courageous and much more interesting, and would not now be faced with having to cram so much stuff into so little time.  :-) 

The reason I am bringing this up now, is summer is on our doorstep.  I know it doesn’t officially begin for almost a month, but when I was growing-up Memorial Day signaled the beginning of summer, and I think summer is a great time to begin fully living the life I want.

This summer I will watch the moon rise and set from a mountain or a rooftop without interruption, or at least from my backyard with a really good friend.  I will also watch the sun rise and set at least two days in a row, and I will run through a sprinkler.

I will sleep on a front porch or a patio, in a tent or on a beach, and with the windows open more often.  (Yes, I know, it will be hot and sticky, and maybe I will sweat and the bugs may bite – but who cares, I will have more stories to tell and the teeny-tiny scars to prove them.)

I will spread more blankets out in the grass, and spend more time looking up at the trees, day dreaming and listening to the thoughts and wisdom of people under the age of 10.

I will ponder theories large and small – relativity, the chicken or the egg – without worrying about the answers.

I will be kinder and gentler; listen more and speak less; give more hugs, and send more hand-written notes.  I will give people what they want, not what I think they need.

I will read more books, light more candles, and sing out-loud more often.

If you are in the mood to join me, please do.  Summer is a great time to be a bit more courageous about being us.

This weekend find your sleeping bag, or your bike, or your racquet or your glove, or your paint brushes and easel, or the book you have been meaning to read or paper and pencil to begin the one you have been meaning to write. 

Open an ice-cold beer or bottle of Coke, pour yourself a tall glass of sangria or lemonade, sip it slowly or with gusto, and then get started on the rest of your life.

Do what you think Jane might do.  Or better yet, what you would do, if no one was watching, or if they were and you didn’t mind – not one little bit, which come to think of it, might be exactly how Vera Jane Clapper-Richter lived.

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