Have a ‘lighted heart’ as you age

“The Lighted Heart” by Elizabeth Yates has been the guiding light of my life since I first read it almost 50 years ago. And as I age, the book seems more important than ever.
Elizabeth Yates (1905-2001) wrote 50 books in her lifetime. Her best known book is “Amos Fortune, Free Man,” which won the prestigious Newbery and William Allen White awards.
Born in 1710, Amos Fortune was a young African prince who was sold into slavery. Yates was inspired to write about Amos after reading his gravestone in Jaffrey, N.H. It read “Sacred to the memory of Amos Fortune, who was born free in Africa a slave in America he purchased liberty professed Christianity lived reputably died hopefully Nov. 17, 1801.”
This well-researched children’s book was so fascinating that I was spellbound when I first read it. Clearly, Yates was a wonderful story-teller.
Her natural talent even was obvious as a child. Then at age 21, she went to New York City to pursue a writing career. Three years later, she left New York to marry William McGreal, an American who worked in England.
The next 10 years were exciting ones as Elizabeth and Bill travelled in Europe with his work. But that happy time ended in 1939.
“The Lighted Heart,” written in 1960, is a magnificent story of the courage with which Bill and Elizabeth faced the next segment of their lives.
The book begins with a funny story. Bill got on a bus and before he reached his seat, the bus lurched forward, so Bill reached for a pole. But the pole gave way and Bill landed in a woman’s lap.
Their English friends were horrified that their buses were so poorly made. But it wasn’t the fault of the bus—Bill had grabbed for a pipe that a plumber was carrying.
The conversation went on. Then, the next evening, Elizabeth noticed Bill putting the newspaper down very quickly and asked, “No news?”
Bill replied, “It doesn’t take long to read when all you can see is the headlines.”
They both knew what was going on. First, the incident on the bus and now not being able to read the newspaper. Bill was becoming blind!
Thus in 1939, Bill and Elizabeth decided to leave England and jump ahead to a dream they’d had for their later years. They found a wonderful 150-year-old house in New Hampshire with 67 acres, much of it wooded.
Racing against time, Elizabeth and Bill first had the workmen fix up the house. Next they planted a garden—hoping that Bill would remember in his mind’s eye and be at home without sight.
It wasn’t an easy life. But it was a good life as they planted and harvested, made new friends, and sat by the fire together.
They quickly got outside of themselves. Elizabeth was a prolific writer, earning a good income. And Bill became actively involved with the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, serving as the first executive officer of the organization.
Everyone has problems as they age. But, as Elizabeth Yates shows us, even with handicaps and health problems, you still can have a good life—if you choose to live with a “Lighted Heart.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.
Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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