“The Best Time of Life,” Oct. 5, 2021

Do me a favor. Take a minute and look back over your years. Never mind how long you’ve lived. Think about it.When was the best time of your life?

Skip childhood. It had its moments, good and bad, but when it was over, most of us were ready to move on.

I’ll begin with 18. At my high school graduation, I gave a speech thanking parents and teachers and classmates for all they’d taught me and the many kindnesses they’d shown me. People said it was the best speech they’d ever heard, mostly because it was short.

That weekend, my friends and I drove with our chaperones (two of the most fun women ever) to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a long weekend. We spent every day lying in the sun and every night dancing at the Pavillion.

Then we drove back to reality and I spent the summer working in the office of a mill where my mother and sister worked in the plant. I also got to model clothes for the company’s catalog. I weighed 115 pounds, wore fake eyelashes and felt like Cher.

That fall, thanks to a full scholarship, I was the first person in my family to go to college. I went to class, did my homework and stayed up late every night talking with other 18-year-olds about Civil Rights, Vietnam, soul music and what we wanted to do in life. Eighteen was a very good year.

Two years later, I left college, flew to California, married a high school teacher/basketball coach and soon after, started a family. I had three babies in five years. Those were some of the hardest and happiest years of my life. I loved, more or less, every minute of them.

When my youngest started school, I took a job in the library of the local newspaper. I wrote some stories freelance and got promoted to a feature writer.
A few years later, I began writing a column. Pretty soon, it was syndicated, and I started hearing from people I’d never met, readers around the country, who said my stories were their stories, too. I liked those years a lot.

Then my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and began a four-year battle fighting for his life. There are gifts that come with hardship. We were blessed in countless ways. They were good years, but I would never want to relive them.

After my husband died, I woke up one morning to realize my children were grown and I was living alone in a four-bedroom house with five sets of dishes and nobody to feed.

I made a choice that day—one I’ve tried to make every day since then, for more than 20 years—to move forward with my life. To live in the present, not in the past or the future, but today.

I kept writing the column, did a lot of speaking around the country and traveled the world. I spent time with family and friends, and a lot of time alone. It was just what I needed. But after seven years as a widow, I realized I wanted more.

So I married a man with whom I share not only my life, but sunsets and laughter and a big blended family that has grown to include nine of the world’s finest grandchildren.

The past two years—with the pandemic and its horrendous loss of life and jobs and joy, its social distancing and so many things we’ve missed—have been hard for all of us. Much harder for some than for others.

I won’t forget that. But in some ways, I’ll remember it as one of the best times of my life. It has slowed me down and made me more thankful and mindful of what matters most. And it has been such a gift to see friends and loved ones and others, near and far, rise up and make the best of it.

Just when it seems we’ve seen it all, life gets harder and we discover we are stronger than we ever dreamed we could be.

Here’s to the past and all it has taught us, and to making today, come what may, the best time of our lives…until tomorrow.

Comments

  1. CINDY says:

    Thank you for your honesty Sharon. FB and all other Social Media seem to only tell stories of how AWESOME everyone is. Everyone in their pictures are happy. Their trip logs are amazing. Everything is amazing. Tends to sometimes leave a pang of jealousy or emptiness after viewing. But your columns are different. You write from the soul. You tell the real stories. You share the good with the bad. At the end of each one I feel your love for others and your desire to touch lives in whatever way they need to be touched. God gave you an amazing talent and you use it very well. Thank you! It’s been a few months since I’ve opened your column. I’m catching up and won’t fall behind again.

    Cindy from Plano

  2. Dennis Lasanen says:

    Very well said, The Best Years of Our Lives. We have finally discovered the season of love. It is only found in someone else’s heart. Right now someone you know is looking everywhere for it. And it is in you.

  3. Clarence Morgan says:

    Fantastic read Sharon. You’re a treasure

    Clarence Morgan

  4. Amen, Sharon, Amen!

  5. Maria says:

    💝💝

  6. Carol Moffitt says:

    Just attended my 50 year HS reunion this past weekend in NC. This column spoke volumes to me. Thank you.

  7. Patsy Styers says:

    This one really speaks to me. Thank you for showing me how to stop the noise and live in the moment. This has come through many of your columns I’ve read over the years. You definitely gave a way of connecting and,we, your audience learn something new every time we read them. Thanks so much for just being you.❤️

  8. Katie Musgrave says:

    Phillipines 3:14 is my life scripture. So I press on just like you
    God bless you and yours!

  9. Kate Sciacca says:

    This morning I grabbed a coffee cup from the lawyer kid’s cupboard. Now, let me be clear. The lawyer boy and his wife have five delightful if a bit energetic children 9 and under. I don’t drink the motor oil they call coffee. I buy Venti Americanos and put them in the fridge…. Heat them in one of their mugs each morning. All this to say that the mug I grabbed had a beautiful quote from Mother Teresa on it…

    Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

    That sums up your column quite well, yes? 😊

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