I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.
"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.
She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..."
"No seriously," I asked. "I am curious to know what motivated you to be taking on this challenge at your age."
"Well I always dreamed of having a college education and now I am going to get one!" she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months she and I would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this 'time machine' share her wisdom and experiences with me.
Over the course of that semester, Rose became a campus icon as she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students when she was living it up.
At the end of the semester I invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget the powerful message she taught us. After she was introduced she stepped up to the podium and suddenly dropped all her neatly arranged three by five cards on the floor.
Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry; I'm just jittery - I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never be able to get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I think you should know."
"We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.
There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. For example, if you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I, at eighty-seven years old, stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.
Anybody can grow older - that doesn't take talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding new opportunities in the changes that confront us and to have no regrets.
Most elderly people I know don't have regrets for the things they did; they only have regrets for things they did not do. The only people who fear death are those who have regrets.'
She then concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."
She challenged each of us in that banquet hall to study the lyrics of that song and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished all her requirements for a college degree and graduated with her class. She finally received her college diploma.
Unfortunately, one week after graduation, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students, faculty members and friends attended her funeral to pay tribute to a wonderful woman who taught by example and showed us it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.
I learned three powerful things from Rose:
1) Growing older is mandatory - growing up is optional.
2) We make our living by what we get - we make our life by what we give.
3)The only thing God promises us is a safe landing; he never promised a calm voyage.