Wednesday, February 2, 2022

You gotta have heart...

Welcome to February's Spiritual Journey post. Our host is Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise.  Her prompt for us is "heart."  One definition for heart is courage, reminding me that the word for heart in French is coeur. Synonyms for courage include moxie, mettle, and spunk.  

"You gotta have heart... miles and miles and miles of heart..." Remember that oldie? Listen here.

If anyone had heart, it was my sister Virginia. She was diagnosed with MS when she was 19, but for the next 50 years she refused to let it define her. She was an excellent student, specializing in botany with post grad work on lichens, and later taught high school biology. By her late 50s she was living alone in Minneapolis near a mall where she liked to shop in her electric wheelchair. On one cold excursion, her chair hit a bump in the sidewalk and she lurched forward onto the frozen ground. Fortunately, a compassionate driver stopped and got her back into her chair. Soon she got a LifeLine, and it came in handy when her chair jettisoned her headfirst into her closet. With no way to get up, she pushed the button and waited. When I registered concern she assured me that the rescuing firefighters were so handsome..."hot"... that she might need rescuing again. 

Virginia's high school photo

Virginia never gave up. Several of us had to talk her out of an ill-conceived plan to go to Gambia with her attendant, but years after that she managed to go to Mexico for a weekend to attend a wedding. Her judgment was clouded; she asked to be taken into the ocean. How anyone would keep her afloat was not her concern, she just wanted the experience. Thank goodness no one indulged that fantasy.

Even when she seemed reckless, I admired her willingness to take a risk and have an adventure. Many in her condition would have confined themselves completely. Virginia had the heart to live. She gave life her all, and she did so with few complaints.

Virginia's birthday is this week. I'll be thinking of her, and along with sadness there will be plenty of pride and more than a few giggles. What a legacy she left behind! What heart!!!

A synonym for moxie is grit, and I've come to love this song called Grit and Grace:

John 16:33  
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


  1. Karen, your sister is beautiful and so is her heartrending story. I had an aunt who developed MS and died in her 50s in a nursing home, completely incapacitated but sharp-minded to the end. She always had a radiant smile for everyone who came to visit. She died on Good Friday; we buried her on Easter Sunday and my grandmother found comfort in that. I thought of writing on courage today and ended up being led in another direction, but this message is needed. Your sister's incredible moxie is needed - I will not forget her story! And I've just listened to the gorgeous, gorgeous song; thank you for that. Blessings to you.

  2. Karen, what a loving tribute to your sister. I've always loved the name Virginia. It was my aunt's name. We called her "Aunt Gin". How long has your sister been gone? I love that you will remember her with giggles. As it should be.

  3. Such a beautiful sharing, such love for your sister; it is so clear that she lives on through these memories and stories. What a strong drive she had, truly a role model for us. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. It is beautiful the way recklessness can actually be wholehearted living, like your sister. What a beautiful tribute you have written.

  5. What a wonderful tribute to Virginia. It's tough having a loved one with special needs...sometimes because of their extreme independence! But, I'm delighted to read about Virginia's spunk. I'm so glad you got "the next 50 years" of time with her. What a lot of heart!

  6. Thank you for sharing this loving memorial in words to Virginia. She lived life to the full while she was here.
    (this is from but I can't seem to change the ID

  7. I'm having trouble with commenting yesterday and today. Oh the challenges of technology! I love your tribute to Virginia. My sister-in-law has MS and is still living alone on a farm. She too has moxie!
    I wish Virginia could have gotten into the water! Sadness, pride, and giggles too - what a way to celebrate your sister with so much heart. Thanks for writing, one of my favorite things about SJT is the music that is shared.

  8. Ramona, thanks for this week of exchanging emails. I am strengthened by what you wrote about your sister. She was an amazing human being with moxie. I finally posted just a few minutes ago so I want to be fortified by my SJT friends.

  9. What wonderful memories to connect to "heart"! A touch of sadness, yes, but your sister is an example of a life well lived. I have to wonder if her MS was partially responsible for her outlook, that constant reminder that life is short and must be experienced to the fullest. A wise reminder for our hearts today; thank you for sharing your sister with us.