“One Sweet Life,” Aug. 6, 2019

What will you do with your one sweet life? I was 18, soon to finish high school, the first time I heard that question. My English teacher, Mr. Prince, suggested it for an essay. Then he said to me, “You really are a writer.”

Huh? I didn’t know what “writer” meant. I knew writers wrote things, but I didn’t know any writers personally. Women in my family raised babies or worked in mills or waited tables. Some of them, like my mother, did all three. Those were hard jobs. Writing seemed easy. I couldn’t imagine getting paid to do it.

(Later, I learned that writing is actually hard and it can pay, but not usually very much.)

Mr. Prince was well named. I liked him a lot, even before he said I was a writer. I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I wrote an essay entitled, “What Will I Do with My One Sweet Life?”

I have no idea what I said in it. It was a long time ago. Never mind how long. I thought I might marry my high school boyfriend and raise babies, but I wouldn’t put that in an essay.

Maybe I said I wanted to go to college to study English (I liked to read) but I would never want to teach it to people who didn’t know what “writer” meant.

Mr. Prince gave it an A, with a note saying it could’ve been an A+, if not for the crack about teaching. When I asked him about that, he laughed.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I try to make the most of my one sweet life. I hope you will, too.”

Then I went off to college, and my high school boyfriend went to Vietnam. When he came back, we split up and I moved to California, married a teacher and started raising babies.

I also took a part-time job writing (it paid, but not much) for a local newspaper. I never doubted that I was making the most of my one sweet life. But in time I’d realize that for some of us, life isn’t just one life. It’s a series of lives told in chapters.

My children were in their late teens and early 20’s when we lost their dad to cancer. We were close as a family, but his death drew us closer. That’s one of the gifts that come with loss.

The kids didn’t need raising any more. But they needed me to make the most of that chapter of my life. I needed it, too. I wanted to be an example for them and honor their dad’s memory by moving forward and being fully alive. So I traveled, worked, wrote and played.

Years later, when I remarried, it was for all those reasons and more. Mostly it was for love. Love makes every life sweeter.

Then the grandbabes started showing up. Eight babes in eight years. Now, when I plan what to do with my day, the plan often includes one or more little people. And their parents. And a trip to the market for something my husband, bless him, will grill. And a big bottle of Biofreeze for my back.

Life doesn’t get much sweeter than that. Still, there are a few more things I hope to do to make the most of this chapter:

_ I want to finish a novel that I started and stopped some years ago. (I recently read about a 101-year-old woman who just published her first book of poetry. Yes, I am fired up.)

_ I’d like to visit places that carry my column and meet readers and editors and other friends I’ve never met.

_ I want to see my husband get really old and keep his marriage vows to always play his bass and try to be more like his dad.

_ I’d love to watch my children make the most of their sweet lives, raise their children and see all their dreams come true.

After that? Who knows?

If we’re lucky, you and I, we will make the most of not just one sweet life, but a blockbuster series, with a brand new chapter beginning every day.

What will you do with yours?


  1. Wayne Carpenter says

    I just read “Living our one Sweet Life” and had to tell you how much I loved it. I have written a few newspaper columns in my past and always appreciated those rare moments when someone took the time to say they enjoyed something I wrote. I read your column regularly in the Killeen (TX) Daily Herald. Keep up the great work, you touched my heart with this column.

  2. Richard Kellogg says

    Sharon, I recall when your novel was gestating at a lakeside cabin in the Carolinas many moons ago.. It is great news to find that the project, a monumental one, may yet reach fruition. Many of your readers will be clamoring to obtain an inscribed copy even before it is released.

    As a warming-up exercise, you might consider penning a few children’s stories for those eight grandchildren, who will treasure them for life. Your fans would enjoy them as well. The main thing is to keep writing and sharing those precious memories with others. Take care.

  3. Mary Harrington says

    Love your column l have always believed that life is a book with each chapter a new beginning. Now as l progressively age l feel l am now a binge watcher with reflecion on the previous chapters and anticipating the future chapters even though they are probably a little more limited. Life is wonderful and exciting adventure with remnants of pain, confusion. Learn and live is my philosophy! Come to Muncie would love to add meeting you to my chapters!

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Looking at the comments it seems a trip to Muncie, Indiana is in your future 😜

    Funny how even those times that didn’t seem so sweet when they were happening manage to be woven perfectly into our one sweet life 🙂.

    Every chapter seems to be the best…. but of course the Good God is saving the best for last.

  5. Barbara Ballard says

    I’ve been reading you for ages, but when you were writing about your 1st husband’s cancer, I sent up many prayers for you. I had lost my husband several years before from a brain tumor. He was 45 and I was 41 so I could relate. I’ve enjoyed your columns since then, with your bass-playing husband and all those grandchildren. If you are ever near Muncie, IN, I would love to come up to you with a smile & a hug!

  6. I am in my twilight years of my life now. I have had a good life for the most part, my grandchildren have been most enjoyable. I love my family very much, there have been a few ups and downs, mostly ups. If you ever come to Muncie Indiana I would love to see you. You were close once but I didn’t know it until you were gone. Love your column.

  7. Sharon Cole says

    I love how your sweet life spills over to your readers. Your columns certainly make my life sweeter.

  8. Patti Peters says

    Sharon your words have often touched me. In this I find 2 things…first my new grandson, 10 days old and so precious. But the other thing is your first husband’s death. I too lost mine from agent orange. He was 49, had suffered much. Worse tho was our kids were 14 and 17 when they lost him and my whole focus became them. I find the only sad thing about my grandson is that he will not know his Grandpa, and Grandpa will not be able to hold him.
    Keep up your words…you touch so many.

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