Monday, October 6, 2014


 Dear Friends,
I have often wondered why it is that Fate allows our paths to cross with the paths of certain others, or why it is that certain people enter our lives.  Some come into our lives for an extended period of time, for years or even decades, and contribute absolutely nothing positive, worthwhile or constructive to our existence.  Then there are others who flash through our lives like a shooting star on a clear night, lasting only a brief, fleeting moment, and then, almost as suddenly as they have appeared, they are gone, disappearing forever, but leaving an indelible impression seared upon our memories that will last as long as we do.  In September of 2013, a shooting star in the form of an elderly lady crossed my path…
The only time I ever saw her was in the late summer of 2013 on the Greek island of Crete.    I had gone to a little taverna in the small seaside village of Amoudara to listen to live bouzouki music.  As I sat at my table listening to the music and watching others dance, including several non-Greek tourists who were attempting to feign knowing how to do the sirtaki, I saw her move onto the dance floor.  She was an older English woman, and I later learned that she would turn eighty years of age the following week.  Some women are able to glide across the dance floor with all the grace of a swan upon the calmest of waters, not even leaving so much as a ripple behind them; however, she moved rather slow and perhaps even a bit animated, not completely unlike a mechanical windup toy doll.  But, as she danced, she radiated a smile which gave all indications that she was really enjoying herself and truly having the time of her life!  It was at that moment I noticed a lady sitting at an adjacent table who was wiping tears from her eyes.  Then, a Dutch gentleman at my table, signaled for me to move closer to him so he could whisper something in my ear.  “The old lady”, he said, motioning discreetly with his hand in her direction, “is quite sick.  She is dying of cancer and has less than a year to live.  She has traveled here with her daughter for one last holiday together.”  My eyes moved from my Dutch friend back to the dance floor and to the old lady.  Her smile belied that there anything wrong with her and that she was nothing other than an older lady enjoying herself on vacation.  When the musicians had finished that song and as she was walking back toward her table, I got up, approached her daughter and told her how much I enjoyed watching her mother dance.  The old lady walked up about then and with a strong and commanding voice that was full of self-assurance asked, “Where are you from?”  I smiled and responded, “I’m from the United States.”  “Oh, really?  And what part?” she continued.  "I’m from the state of Tennessee,” I answered.  “Yes?  Well, I have a sister who lives near Nashville.  Next year I’m coming to see you!”   And with that she winked and then gave me a good-natured jab in the ribs with her elbow.  I couldn’t help but smile at someone who had the courage to enjoy herself with such a high degree of enthusiasm and exuberance, especially when facing such a limited and uncertain future.
After sitting and resting through a couple of songs, she was approached by a much younger Irishman of about fifty with short-cropped red hair and green eyes, who walked to the old  lady’s  table and asked her for the next dance.  It was a slow song…perhaps a Greek ballad or possibly even a Cretan love song.  At any rate, they danced with their arms around each other as their feet moved and shuffled with the slow beat and tempo of the music.  Then, when the Irishman had guided the old lady so that her back was toward those sitting at the tables, he slid both his hands down her back and squeezed her buttocks!   I could hear audible gasps and the sound of air being sucked in between teeth from those sitting around tables near the edge of the dance area.  However, giving no indication that anything was amiss and with the unflappable grace and style of a true English lady, she then steered the Irishman so that his back was now facing those seated at tables, reached  around and squeezed his ass hard enough that I thought his  green-Irish eyes would pop from their sockets!  There was a look of utter surprise on the Irishman’s face as an immediate eruption of laughter bellowed forth from those who witnessed what had just taken place.  She had turned the tables on the Irishman with the poise and dignity of a real lady!  As it turned out, that was the last dance of the evening, and quite possibly the last dance ever for the old woman.
The following morning as I was preparing coffee in my apartment and looking out my window, I saw the old lady, her daughter, and another gentleman (perhaps her son, or maybe her daughter’s husband) pass by headed in the direction of the beach.  When I returned to Crete this year (2014), I kept looking for the old lady, hoping that somehow she had been able to cheat death, or at least keep it at bay for another year.  But I never saw her again.
On that warm Cretan night in September of 2013, an elderly English lady taught me something vitally important about living and dying and about strength of character.  I can only hope that when my life is drawing to a close and as the final curtain is about to fall, I can face whatever lies ahead with that same dignity, grace, and courage as the old English lady.  At that point,  perhaps, like her, I’ll be prepared to dance…The Last Dance.
 P.S.:  Your comments on this  article are welcomed.  You can leave a comment simply by clicking on "comment" at the end of this article.  Your comments will be posted as soon as they can be reviewed.  Thanks.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
Bob Armistead