This week for our retirement living section, I traveled to an
assisted living facility in Warrenton to interview a man
named John Sekelsky. After his Bible study, the other
residents and I listened to the story of his life. I asked
Sekelsky basic questions while the nursing home residents and
volunteers pressed him for more details, entreating him to
repeat old stories they had heard before.
The scene reminded me of a passage from Willa Cather's
wonderful novel, Death Comes to the Archbishop. Unlike
what the title suggests, the book is almost entirely about
the life of an intrepid missionary archbishop.
But Cather also paints a beautiful picture of the
archbishop's last days. His retirement gives him time to
reminisce over his greatest accomplishments, his treasured
friendships. "The Bishop was living over his life," wrote
She continues, "Sometimes when Magdalena or Bernard came in
and asked (the archbishop) a question, it took him several
seconds to bring himself back to the present. He could see
they thought his mind was failing; but it was only
extraordinarily active in some other part of the great
picture of his life - some part of which they knew nothing."
As a writer, I believe each person has a story worth telling,
especially the elderly. Fortunately, Sekelsky let us in on
the most vivid memories of his life. It seemed to me a joy
for him to tell it, and it certainly was a privilege for me
to hear it.