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Lois B. Green’s The Last Chapter

 

A Memoir of Worcester’s Woman of All Seasons

By Harvey Fenigsohn

“On the day you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that on the day you die, the world will cry and you will rejoice.” ~ Native American proverb

In her recent memoir The Last Chapter, Lois Green exemplifies the wisdom of the above proverb. When Green passes away from metastatic breast cancer, the world will indeed have reason to cry. All of us ~ family, friends, and community~ will suffer a poignant loss. But we take comfort in knowing that, on the day of her death, this woman will have much reason to rejoice. She can celebrate a life in which public and private achievements triumphed over painful setbacks. When Lois Green dies, even as we mourn her passing, the world will rejoice for a life well lived.

In a conversational style, Green’s frank autobiography reveals the contradictory sides of the author ~ her self-doubt and her self-confidence, her humility and her pride. Overcoming her insecurities, the results of a troubled childhood, she could later say, “The fat little girl deep inside me developed a sense of self-worth, a conviction that I had value. In combination, prep school and college made me realize that I could do whatever I wanted. The opposite simply never occurred to me.”

loisb-copyTypical of many educated women of her era, Green married immediately after college, moving to her new husband’s city of Worcester to become a “housewife.” She took seriously her responsibilities as a wife, and later as a mother of four children, but Green wanted more. Unfulfilled and bored with her traditional role, she insisted on making the most of her talents beyond the home. Green gradually became deeply involved in many of Worcester women’s organizations and charitable groups, including non-profit service agencies and foundations, ultimately serving on boards and as a trustee.

Whatever the obstacles, Green remained determined to challenge herself, and in 1975 earned a Masters in Public Administration at age 45, despite her first diagnosis of cancer. Though Green never stopped volunteering, she established herself as a highly competent professional at Glavin Center for Mental Retardation, and later as Director of Elder Home Care and CEO of United Way of Central Massachusetts. Becoming Vice Chairman and then Chair of the Board of Memorial Hospital, she ultimately resigned after 18 years of service, crestfallen at being passed over for the Board chairmanship of the newly merged UMass Memorial Hospital, an experience that left a bitter taste for years.

Aware of Green’s experience with geriatric and end-of life issues, shortly after her resignation from the UMass Memorial Board, UMass Medical School offered her a position on the faculty as Director of the Geriatric Community Clerkship. In addition to the innumerable awards received for distinguished community service, including a Key to the City of Worcester, she was awarded honorary doctorates from Becker College (1999), University of Massachusetts Medical School (2003), and Clark University (2009).

Neither maudlin nor self-pitying, Lois Green lives on with a zest for life, a role model inspiring us to confront death with courage and dignity. Living on death row, she knows her sentence is irrevocable; there can be no stay of execution. Instead of feeling depressed because any day may be her last, Green remains uplifted and liberated ~ a woman at peace with herself. She is all the more grateful for every precious moment, reminding us that far too often we undervalue the treasure of time. In The Last Chapter, Lois Green reveals that it is never too late “to enjoy the here and the now,” but only if we truly accept the brevity of life.

Harvey Fenigsohn writes book reviews for the Humanities in Medicine website at the UMass Medical School library.  The complete version of this review is available at http://library.umassmed.edu/humanities_med/book_reviews.cfm.”  Harvey can be reached at harvey.fenigsohn@umassmed.edu.

Pictured: Green’s book, The Last Chapter.

 

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