“What is to give light must endure burning.”
Yesterday at church, we celebrated the life of Ethel Owen. She will observe her 94th birthday on Friday, June 30. More than anyone else, Ethel has taught me how to live as a woman-on-her-own. Her husband died from cancer when their children were just nine and eleven years old. Ethel was about forty when widowed, and worked as a Physical Therapist doing home visits for the University of Alabama Medical Center. At the time of her husband's death, Ethel was already no stranger to loss. Her brother had been killed in a training accident at the opening of World War II. Ethel became a Navy Wave, in part to fill the shoes of her brother, but also because she had vital skills that were needed for men returning from war. Instead of caving-in over the losses in her life, she waded into it with all that she had, and the impact of that has been super-sized.
Ethel is a woman who, in typical military fashion, pulls no punches when she speaks her mind. If you don't want to hear her strong and straight-forward opinion, best not ask her the question. She's given up her car now, and not a moment too soon. She put battlefield ambulance drivers to shame with her full-throttle approach to making her way through the streets of Birmingham. Yesterday, her grand daughter told a story of Ethel backing out of her driveway at fifty miles per hour without a single backward glance. I've had my own experiences with her driving. At the top of Red Mountain, the highest peak around here, Ethel pulled the car out of gear, took her foot off the brake, and informed me, “This is how I save money on gas!” I covered my head and ducked like they taught us to do during air raid drills when I was six. I prayed, too, “Lord, just let me survive this and I promise to never get in the car with this mad woman again!”
Ethel is an avid birder who, well into her eighties, back-packed through wilderness areas counting bird species for the Audubon Society. She is an artist, a member of Alabama Designer Craftsmen, who until recently was at every art festival in the state with her gourd and pine straw baskets. Her life still has a lot of tread on it. She has lived it, and not wasted a moment. She did not let adversity and loss turn her bitter or make her soft. She continues to shed her light—one tested, and because of that testing, burning brighter than ever. If you have just one person like Ethel in your life, count yourself among the blessed.
In the Spirit,