We drove to see her and to help her celebrate her birthday.
Took her out to lunch at her favorite place where she ordered her usual - fried potatoes with onions, salted well, stiff coffee and a glass of orange juice.
She refused an arm to help stabilize her in the wintery weather, insisting that she can make it fine. No meds. No pain killers. Just a little hip weakness.
Lots of the conversation as we ate together - all five of us - was on the orphan train, a significant historical event in US history when many young children were shipped across the country to an unknown destination to try to survive, their parents of origin gone from their lives. Lela was one of those orphans and remembers the trip well...in fact she "remembers things long ago better than today."
Back at the home, where she stays, she showed us around...one room, decorated by her in shades of violet was shown to us...the room she spends most of her time in. She opened a box and there we saw pictures of the orphan train, and in some group shots, there she was, an infant, smiling bravely, heading into the unknown.
What has life been like for you Lela? Her answers: "Jesus has been my closest friend. An orphan at the start and pretty alone at the end, but Jesus all the way. God takes care of His children."
I gaze at her gnarling fingers, the prominence of blood vessels - and I envy her wavy white hair! I flush when she pats my face gently and instructs me.
And what is the best day you have had recently, Lela? Her answer: "Today."
We say Goodbye with long, tender embrace. We all somehow sense this might be the last time...and the next time will be in eternity when it is a forever Hello. And she has become a general in His heavenly host.
Lela is 99.
So, on my birthday, today, when I sometimes start to feel a bit old, Lela has a gift to give of hope and courage and endurance. She is 32 years out front, going strong, and looking up.
See you again - and forever.