She's Got a Song in Her Heart, and She's Going to Sing It
In this excerpt from her book, Lucimarian Roberts, the mother of GMA anchor Robin Roberts, shares the role that faith plays in her life.
A few years ago, I was homeless. At least that’s how I felt. It seemed that at my late age, I had no particular place to go, no place to call home. Hurricane Katrina had turned my world upside down. My home in Pass Christian was uninhabitable, and I wasn’t sure if I should sell it as-is or refurbish and renovate it. My second home in Biloxi had withstood the hurricane but had been severely damaged from water and wind. Then just a few months after Katrina had made her unwelcome arrival, I had a dreadful bout with pneumonia. For a while I lived in a rehabilitation center, wondering where I would go when I was released.
When I think back to that hard season of life, I realize I was still numb from everything that had happened in recent years. Within a short period of time, my life had unraveled through a series of tragic events that began when my son-in-law Willie Craft, Sally-Ann’s husband, was diagnosed with colon cancer and died just six months later. The next year, my husband Larry suffered a heart attack and passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. Soon after, I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and a degenerative bone disease that had my daughter, Dorothy, ushering me to countless doctors’ offices and hospitals. In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast. Then in 2007, Robin received the devastating news that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
I lived in a hazy fog during much of that period of time, waffling back and forth on almost every decision. Seeing that I was weary and worn, my grown children took charge of my life as best they could. I think we were all wondering if I should just pull up stakes and move from the Gulf Coast. But where would I go? I had already tried a couple senior living options, including an assisted living center near Robin, but nothing seemed quite right. I kept asking myself what I was supposed to be doing at this stage of life. In all honesty, I felt frazzled and totally useless.
Even in those dark days, my faith was my source of comfort. Today I am happily back in my Pass Christian home where I play my piano and sing hymns each day. I have a home health-care aid to assist me several times each week. Physically, I have good days and bad. There are times when my joints are stiff and my words are slow, but I am reminded of an important truth. God has given me purpose that overcomes pain.
Over the span of my long life, I have learned many lessons. To be honest, I am learning them still. Out of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, I discovered not to prize possessions too highly. I grieved the loss of many special objects. The copper wall plaques we’d brought back from Japan. The china vase hand-painted by Larry’s aunt. Our stereo and collection of old record albums. My organ. Even now, there are times when I suddenly think about an item only to realize that it has been lost forever. I have also discovered what it’s like to lose a loved one in a heartbeat. But through every loss, I am learning to loosen my grasp on things of this world and to cling to good memories and to God instead. I have also come to understand that having a sense of humor helps to offset the challenges of growing old. My spirits are lifted whenever I hear laughter around the dinner table or at a family gathering. In fact, I often think that humor may be God’s best gift to those of us in late life, a salve for difficult moments.
Thinking back on all the stories of my life, there is one story that shines especially bright in my memory. My mother loved to tell it, perhaps because it captured the essence of who I am and what I believe. As I explained earlier, during the Depression my mother cooked on a wood stove in the basement because our electricity had been turned off. There was an occasion when my father was home between drinking binges, and we were seated for dinner at a makeshift table in the basement.
Excerpt from My Story, My Song: Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith,
© 2012 by Lucimarian Roberts, as told to Missy Buchanan, with reflections by Robin Roberts, published by The Upper Room.