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Choosing Joy

I met Margie on a flight from Charlotte to St. Louis. She and Jackie, her best friend of sixty years, were on their way back from visiting Margie’s daughter.

I took the aisle seat and prepared to avoid two hours of small talk by pulling out my headphones. Margie said, “Now, are you going to cause any trouble on this flight? Because this row only has enough room for one trouble-maker and I’ve already got that role covered.”

“No,” I said. “The flight attendant asked me sit here, so I could keep you in line.”

I put my headphones away.

We talked for the rest of the flight.

She told me she wanted to get a BB gun she could scare off the squirrels that congregated outside her apartment window, but Jackie wouldn’t let her. “It’s just not safe, Marge,” Jackie piped in. “You’re a terrible shot and you’re liable to hit someone.”

Marge rolled her eyes and looked to me for support. I gladly complied. “You should definitely get a BB gun, Marge. Jackie, mind your own business.”

Margie told me about the time she and Ruthie mooned Jackie and Frannie when they were out golfing. Jackie, without looking up from her book, said, “Seventy-nine is too old to be mooning people, Marge. Nobody wants to see your wrinkly behind.”

Margie leaned over and told me not to listen to Jackie. “She reads those dirty romance novels. You can’t trust her.” This time, Jackie looked up. “I’m reading John Grisham! Marge, don’t tell people I’m reading dirty books!”

I laughed at the banter between these old friends. Jackie went back to her book and Marge and I went back to talking.

Marge hasn’t had an easy life. When her first husband lost his battle to cancer, she took a job in the hotel management industry that kept her on the road and away from home most of the time. She remarried in her mid-fifties and enjoyed two decades with her second husband before he lost his battle to Parkinson’s. Margie is eighty-seven now. She moved into assisted living a couple months ago. Her health is declining and the pain in her left hip has stripped her of the independence she loved.

But, she has no complaints and no regrets.

I asked her how she had cultivated such a joyful spirit despite all the heartache she had experienced.

“God has been so good to me,” she said. “Even in the darkest times, He gave me reason to be grateful. You can’t choose what God will ask you walk through, but you can choose how you walk through it. Oh, there's been heartache, to be sure. I've cried a lot of tears and I still deeply miss the people I've lost. It's just that I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to waste a single minute of my time dwelling on what might or should have been. Cranky old people start out as cranky young people. Don’t be a cranky young person, Casey.”

I won’t be.

Thank you Margie. I’m glad I took my headphones off.

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