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Saturday, March 17, 2012

God's Guest List - Rita Studebaker

Yesterday was Rita's 101st Birthday.  I was honored to help Marcia prepare a birthday lunch celebration for Rita and 3 of her friends.  The party began by celebrating her picture in "Blast from the Past" in Friday's Lewiston Morning Tribune.  The caption alongside the picture read:
Sisters Rita and Ada Yost are all dressed up for their first communion in this photograph made in 1915. Their mother, Ellen, a professional seamstress, sewed their dresses. Considered twins by many but actually two years apart in age, the sisters took communion in St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kellogg, Idaho. Rita is now Rita Studebaker and lives in Lewiston, where she and her family will celebrate her 101st birthday today.

Marcia told us that Rita's mom dressed them as twin until they were in high school.  Additionally, both girls were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and dressed only in blue and white for many years.  Ellen, the mom, really wanted them to be like twins so she held Ada back and enrolled Rita in school when she was only five years old and they remained in the same classroom throughout their school years in Kellogg.  Rita told the story of being in the eighth grade and said "one day the principal came into our classroom and picked several students out and we were sent to high school.  It didn't feel good for us because the other eighth graders were jealous of us and the ninth graders resented us being in high school." She tells great stories of her growing up years in Kellogg.

Ruth Aram, Rita, Mary Ellen Black and Jo Luper
I also enjoyed Ruth Aram's stories.  She told us that she and Rita decided during Lent years ago they would go out for lunch every Friday (Catholics don't eat meat on Friday during Lent) and have clam chowder at local restaurants.  During one of their lunches at Red Lobster, an acquaintance commented to them, "this clam chowder lunch doesn't appear to be much of a sacrifice for you ladies."  She talked about their experiences in Bible Study classes, volunteering at St. Joe's, and attending St. Mary's League meetings at St. Stan's.  Rita helped Pat Wittman take and record blood pressures every Thursday morning at St. Joes for years.  She eventually had to give up driving, but insisted on keeping her "job" so she rode Valley Transit to the hospital.  She lived all over the world and told me many stories of living in Afghanistan when her husband worked overseas.  She's been like a library to her family and friends. I'm always tickled when she says things like, "getting old isn't all it's cracked up to be."  Rita epitomizes the acceptance of life, with joy and a delightful sense of humor.
Rita delighted us with enough wind power to eventually blow out all three candles.  Rita's life can be compared to an expandable suitcase, enlarged by her experiences and relationships.  In the second century of her life she is just "here" and here holds more than enough.  The simplicity of her life holds its own kind of brightness and clarity.  Sometimes she doesn't remember things and she gets a little anxious at times, but her inner brightness shines through even these tough times. She's had to give up driving, leave her home, and accept the help of others to prepare her meals and ensure her safety. Her last years are characterized by what Richard Rohr calls a "kind of bright sadness and sober happiness." Rita is on my guest list because I met this shining lady and I know that "she is the goal of humanity and the delight of God."  (From Richard Rohr's Falling Upwards).

And oh, the cooks had their picture taken because we were all wearing green!

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