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A Rose for Christmas
Jim Cassidy

“It’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.”  These profound words and the following inspirational story were told to me by a young friend of mine.

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.  I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.  She said, “Hi, handsome.  My name is Rose.  I’m 87 years old, can I give you a hug?” I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” And she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked. She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married and have a couple of kids... .”

“No, seriously, “ I asked.  I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age. “I always dreamed of having a college education and now I am getting one!” she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milk shake.  We became instant friends.  Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.  I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.  She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. 

She was living it up!

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.  As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her 3x5 cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said,” I’m sorry I’m so jittery.  I gave up beer for lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order, so let me just tell you what I know.”

As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.  There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day; you’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people who are dead and don’t even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year, and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old.  If I am 87 years old, and stay in bed for a year and never do anything, I will turn 88.  Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The deal is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. 

Have no regrets. We elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do.  The only people who fear death are those with regrets.” She concluded her speech by singing the “Rose.”  She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

The Rose

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you it’s only seed
It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dyin’
 That never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

 At the year’s end, Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.  Just before Christmas, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over 2,000 college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be. Merry Christmas to Rose, to all my loved ones and to all my friends.

Jim is Vice-Commander of American Legion Post #219. He served as a combat infantryman in WWII, fighting in France and Germany with the 70th Infantry Division. You can email him with questions or comments at:



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