Nancy Rogers lives with her mother, Melania; four rabbits; and two cats in Columbia. The family has a tree farm in northeast Columbia. Nancy is a volunteer of the year with the Central Missouri Humane Society.
The Rogers and Welliver families have been friends for a good many years.
Judge Warren Welliver was a Missouri Supreme Court Justice. He received his law degree from the University of Missouri. The Welliver daughters Gale, Carla and Christy Welliver all graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in library science.
Ruth Welliver, son in law Bill Stone, granddaughter Jordan Stone and great grandson Chase cherish the memories of Gale, her two sisters, Carla and Christy and husband, father, father in law, grandfather and great-grandfather Warren Welliver.
Recently Nancy had a conversation with Ruth.
"Ruth, you are so stoic — happy, even. How do you do it after all you have been through?"
"Sometimes I feel alone; lonely. But everyone has their problems. People lose children every day in the war. I am not the only one. Christy used to say, 'I have a choice. I can be very sad or very happy.' When I look at the sunset I imagine there are people waiting on the other side who will say to me,
"'Where have you been? We've been waiting for you.'"
It's not Ruth's time, yet. But it's nice to imagine that Christy, Carla, Gale and Warren are waiting for her on the other side.
The following is a toast given by Nancy Rogers in honor of Gale Welliver Stone on Aug. 2, 2014. The toast reflects a conversation Nancy had with Gale during one of their last visits at Gale's home.
“I am not afraid to die. I have had a wonderful life. I am so happy!”
“I have a wonderful husband, a wonderful daughter, a wonderful mother, and wonderful friends.”
“I am so lucky.”
We sit at the dining table looking out at the green lawn. A little bird flies up to the feeder hanging from a branch on the tree just outside the window.
Beau stretches out lazily on the dining table.
“Would you like something to eat?”
Homemade casseroles, rich desserts, and exotic cheeses crowd the shelves of the refrigerator.
“My friends have been so kind. Someone brings food every day. There is so much food — we can’t begin to eat it all!”
We dive into a creamy bean and cheese dip.
“See all of my cards? Everyone has sent such beautiful cards.”
We look at the get well cards, one by one. Love cards.
“I am very lucky. Everyone is so good to me.”
The little bird hops along the branch toward the feeder.
Beau looks up, then returns to his nap.
“Would you like a drink?”
I go to the fridge and pour each of us a glass of chardonnay.
“Cheers! Here’s to us.”
Our glasses sparkle in the sunlight.
Gale strokes Beau’s silky, grey coat.
Her delicate fingers sport gold bands lustrous with diamonds. Her slender nails are painted an earthy, silver bronze. A gold frog pendant clings perennially to her neck.
There is no wig today.
I can see her face better without the wig.
I am honored to be let into her real life, wigless.
There is an uncanny, unspeakable beauty in a face unadorned.
Her eyes are kind, generous, and full of gratitude.
Gratitude for the gift of life.
I reach over and hold her thin frame in my arms.
“I love you Gale.”
“I love you Nancy.”
I look out the window one last time before I leave.
The little bird is still there.
Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.