The Best and Worst
Year of My Life
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of
times.” That was this year for me. One of the
best times was when Mike Cope invited me
to teach a class on Friday of the Pepperdine
Lectures in May on my new book, The Victory
Lap: Growing Old with God.
Mike also let me have a book signing after
the main address Thursday night at the
My husband Frank made a poster of all
eight of the books I've published to stand on
the counter, and Felicia from the bookstore
brought books to sell.
People from all stages of my life stopped by
to ask me to sign their books. Tito and Ana
Acosta from the Vermont Avenue Church
stopped by. Tito studied the poster. “I have
this book, and this one, and this one,” he
said. “And I still need to get this one, and this
one and this.”
Diana Ryan, Angela Manassee, Char Dolton,
Kathy Snelgrove, and Fred and Jenny Ricker
from Culver Palms stopped by.
Ken and June Nicholson, who hosted me
when I spoke in Arlington, Vermont, gave me
a hug. Their son Jeff was one of the guest
experts who spoke in the class.
Ben Wilson got the book for his mother for
Mother’s Day and brought me a sweet potato
pie he’d baked. I gave a piece to Felicia to
broaden her cultural exposure.
But meanwhile, I was dealing with various
health issues. Despite the fact that tests had
ruled out Alzheimer's, hydrocephalus and a
series of seizures led to troublesome
memory lapses. Memory is so much a part
of who a person is that it gave me trouble
with my identity.
By June, my health was deteriorating to the
extent that I was forced to give up the ministry
to the homeless that I'd chaired for years. I
had never before dropped a responsibility
cold like that, and it made me feel horrible.
I was taking two medicines that had
depression as side effects, and I was feeling
One Sunday at church, one of our deacons
asked me how I was, and instead of smiling
and saying "Fine," as usual, I must have
lingered a split second. "No, really," he said,
and I felt the tears fill my eyes, and he
wrapped me in his arms and just stood there
While I knew I was old, I was suddenly struck
with an overwhelming sense of my personal
mortality. I was going to die, and I began to
feel that it wasn't all that far away. I was in my
70s, my body and brain were failing, and the
doctor had discovered three carcinomas--two
on my face! They were operable, but I looked
like a pirate with a scar on my cheek.
I had to adjust to a new normal, and it didn't
take much to knock me off center.
I asked my sister and two friends if they could
visit that summer. I really wanted to see
them, and they did. I didn't die, but I was able
to renew relationships with the three most
important people outside of L.A. to me.
I wasn't sure what would happen to the
homeless ministry, but our minister, Mark
Manassee, and Marissa Stewart, coordinator
of the Palms Neighborhood Council, took it
up and it never skipped a beat.
When my doctors told me to get more
exercise, Diana Ryan began walking with
me, giving me company and greater
Ben, Diana, Bennie Thomas and I met
together through the summer as a writer’s
workshop, encouraging each other and
critiquing each other’s work.
It was a summer of muggy heat and drought
and water rationing when our lovely green
lawns turned brown and trees and flowers
died, signaling that California was the
bellweather state for global warming as for
so much more. It made me miserable.
Carisse Berryhill (above right) called from Abilene
Christian University. Archivist at Brown Library
there, she was asking to archive my personal
I was overwhelmed, especially since Frank and I
had a rather spotted history there. After all, I was
pretty outspoken for a woman at the time, and he
had some unorthodox ways.
And collecting and boxing all the papers I'd
accumulated was really a daunting task, but It was
one of those jobs you're so happy to have done
once you've done it.
Another school I attended, Fuller Seminary, asked
for a collection of my books for its alumni bookshelf.
--photo by Diana Ryan
Our friend Marilyn Adams came from
Princeton early in July. Marilyn brought lunch
and we made pasta here for dinner. We
talked about a lot of things from aging to
social issues to books and movies. Despite
the fact that she's high church now, she
came out of the Disciples movement, so she
understands where I'm coming from. A calm
and loving presence, I never cease to be
amazed that she's my friend.
My sister Barbara Webb, her husband Doug, their
son Chad, his wife Joy and their children Autumn
and Sam visited from Texas late in July. We went
to the Print Museum in Carson and saw
equipment like that we’d run in our father’s shop
in Happy when we were in school.
We also watched the kids play in the surf at
Redondo with Kathy and Katyana (Autumn is
Katyana’s age and she and Sam are the only
cousins she’s met on my side of the family). That
night we had a seafood dinner at a restaurant
where we watched the sunset as the waves
crashed on the rocks. It was lovely!
Despite all the wonderful things that have
happened, I've wept and prayed with all those
affected by the mass murders, police shootings
of unarmed African Americans, and terrorist
incidents worldwide, until on Dec. 2 they reached
our neighbors in San Bernardino! Surely we can
find better ways than guns to deal with our
differences with each other!
My friend Harris and I have begun work on a new
book on that subject, based on stories of our half-
century friendship despite our own differences
and those of many others we've known and
appreciated over the years.
Despite all the difficulties of a difficult year, it's
good to face yet another year of challenge,
supported by the love of family and friends.
May 2016 be a year of love and joy and peace and
faith for you and yours.
After my surgery and retirement, I was sure I'd no
longer be able to work, so I was glad to be able to
keep a hand in by writing articles for Power for
Today and Christian Chronicle.
In August, most of the Culver Palms church worked
together to help celebrate the 90th birthday of one
of our elders, Charlie Runnels. Most of the
women—and at least one man—prepared an
enchilada dinner. Two other elders’ daughters
decorated the Fellowship Hall with huge paper
flowers and fans.
Our granddaughter Katyana sang Charlie’s favorite
song, “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La
Charlie’s impossible dream had been to locate
and raise money for a new campus for Pepperdine
University, and he had been instrumental in
procuring the funds and the land for the Malibu
campus. He had been honored for his 90 years,
his service as an elder and his service to