by Cathee Poulsen

“I have aged…My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried to flatten and reuse. My eyes fail me often—in the darkness, when headlights flash, when rain falls. It is unnerving, this new unreliability in my vision. Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.”  ~ The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Last night as the timer lit the lights on the deck railing, the lavender twilight caught me away to a series of moments that brought both tears and laughter. I guess I’m getting a bit nostalgic as I turn 74 this month and I couldn’t help but linger on the richness of the life I’ve lived.

What are our lives except a series of experiences strung together in sequence, some of which we remember with shame or regret, but by far, ones we remember with joy and pride? At least those are the ones I choose to dwell on these days.

When I get fearful or things get complicated, I remind myself of this verse:

[box] Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).[/box]

Then I say, “It’s okay, Cathee. The Lord has brought you this far and He won’t quit now.

Looking Back with a Smile

May almost always recalls the hot morning near the end of sixth grade that I decided to pick a gardenia from the back yard and pin it to my white Peter Pan collar before I set out for school. I don’t remember any time before that day that I intentionally “dressed up” before school. The smell of gardenias never fails to bring forth that memory of me innocent and on the cusp of ending one season and crossing over that summer to another.

Walking into the chapel at Riverside Baptist Church, April 11 1959, to see the entire front by the platform covered wall to wall with flower arrangements for my sister’s funeral. My six young male friends the pallbearers, the man who led me to Christ – Dr. James Parrish – officiating, and my white pique dress. Everything else is a blur. I will always be a sister.

The first time Bob Poulsen kissed me and how different it was from what I’d expected. Four years older than me, a man about town of 20, and I only 16, I don’t know what I expected. It just wasn’t the very sweet tender kiss I received in the back seat of Dick Perkins Bonneville going over Biscayne Bay on the Venetian Causeway. I melted then. Still do.

Me at Florida State, in bed one night, all the lights out in Bryan Hall, when from down on the ground between the buildings, in perfect harmony, the male voices float up in the darkness to our window,

The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl

Of all the girls I know…

The blue of her eye and the gold of her hair

Are a blend of the western sky

And the moonlight beams on the girl of my dreams

She’s the sweetheart of Sigma Chi

I never discovered who the lucky girl was they singled out that night, but the moment has lasted.

Three years later, Bob and I kneeling by our bed in the honeymoon suite at Key Biscayne Hotel, telling Jesus we wanted our lives to center around Him. That nothing else mattered more than that. And how we’ve kept that promise.

The morning I left the hospital in LaMirada California and they wheeled me by the nursery window. A nurse held up the bundle wrapped in soft pink. No name. Me shut down and bleeding inside, pretending I would be just fine. Wondering who would care for her. It’s one of those moments you never forget.

And then 20 months later holding a tiny newborn with light red fuzz all over his head, knowing no one would ever take him away from me. He got the love of two children and who knew someday they would be friends. How can one even imagine these things at the time?

[box] O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! (Romans 11:33).[/box]

Passing the academy recently where my kids went to school and feeling that deep ache rise in my heart. Such joy every morning when I dropped them off, Journey playing on the radio, them so excited to see friends, the basketball games. Before the hard days rolled in.

The memories crowd my thoughts like bees in the apple orchard at autumn, but time constraints limit the telling.  I’ll never run short of past experiences that still bring a smile, like walking into the lobby at Port of the Islands and pausing to listen to 150 women chattering away, enjoying their overnight for the women’s retreat, anticipating what the Lord will do over the next 24 hours. Knowing I envisioned this and now experiencing it.

Waiting at Southwest Regional Airport for the flight that would finally bring that first baby to my arms, after a 40 year separation, as one friend described “Imagine the racket in heaven Saturday night when angels fill the concourse, the din of flapping wings joining in hundred-part harmony of song, and it all rises from the ashes as Dori walks that birth canal between the plane and your arms.”

Weekends on Little Marco Island, Kate lighting the kerosene lanterns along the screened-in hallway, the bonfire outside, us girls celebrating communion together, then enjoying a meal compared to no other because of our tropical setting at the island house.

The publication of my first book. Holding it in my hand, tears flowing. The first time Dori called me “Mom.” My 50th Anniversary party with everyone present.

Worshipping with 13,000 others in Gwinnett Arena at Catalyst. No sound like that one, joy rising as we sing “Oh, I’m running to Your arms…”

Texas standing in morning’s early light, holding a paper bag with her clothing in it, and Pierce, arms flung out as he runs to her, me knowing she is finally free, not only from the metal bars but her past.

Watching my three sons, each of them craftsmen in their own fields, do their work with such excellence it leaves me breathless.

And Now…

There is a sweetness as we age that softens the hard edges of our pain and loss. We are less likely to take things so seriously, things that never really mattered in the first place. And if we have matured in the love of Christ, knowing Him better, receiving His favor, we are able to bestow it on others with gladness.

I no longer fear getting older. My hair is almost gray now and I don’t look like I did at 16 or 25 or 40. I am not middle-aged. I am in the twilight of my life. And that’s where this very long trail of memories began.

May you find joy in what you have learned, the people you’ve met along the way, the friends who remain dear, the precious members of your family, and the experiences you’ve had with God. This life is not all there is, my friend. And the best wine is always saved until last.


  1. Cathee, when you mentioned Port of the isles, WOW , thankful memories began flooding my mind. That was the first time I ever went before the Lord and focused on what He would say to me. You had told us to go back to our room and just get into the presence of the Lord . I had no idea what I was doing , what to say or that having a personal relationship was even real. You had prayed for me several times before so I truly was satisfied with just being around you and attaching myself to your faith. After going back to my room and started seeking the Lord on my own, my life changed forever. God always sends us someone in our life to make us feel accepted or worthy if we don’t know Him. I am sure that you were that person for me. You were bigger than life to me and for you to take the time to pray for me , simple little prayers that had big outcomes showed me how real my precious Jesus was and I have never stopped pressing in since. Funny how the man you love most in your life , you don’t mind sharing with all these other women. I was such a jealous person and I could not believe that with Him I was healed of all that jealousy. I think sometimes that you must have sad thoughts not having as much time with Dori as you would have like to have but then you will have her for eternity. That should make up for any lost time right.Love you Cathee and thanks again.

  2. Wow, I’m scared to think what you will write next year if that was only for 74. Made me think of Dorothy and how much I want to kill her, sometimes, and her me, but it will all turn into a treasured memory when I’m in the twilight years.

  3. Oh Cathee how precious you are to me. I so enjoyed your memories through the tears and I know there is so much more. Aging is such an attitude change that we have to accept or we will not be happy. God bless you all the days of your life.

  4. Sister Cathee, your Stately Godliness has always been a refreshing path for many to follow. No matter what has come your way you have chosen to face it through grace. I love you and admire you more than words can convey! Blessings on you this new journey of life, the latter shall be greater than the rest!

  5. This is what I love so much about you. You are always ready to share your whole life with others. I have walked with you through most of these days and experiences and have been blessed to know we suffered or enjoyed the journey together. I will always love you forever because I know who you really are, inside and out. My precious companion, friend and lover. You have always been the girl of my dreams. You are my life. Thank you for letting me share my life with you. Bob

  6. I pray you will write your memoir. I will be your editor. It is so important to get all this written. I love you so and applaud this lovely reflection of your 74 years. But I truly want to sink my teeth into those epic 1000 pages.

  7. Yes the Lords has carried us through many peaks and valleys. I feel like the most blessed woman The Lord has truly blessed my life and yours and I am so happy to be back in touch with you. I showed Pam your picture. She spent many hours on S. W. 7th street. We had a great childhood except losing Cheri. Thank you for sharing your life

  8. A walk down memory lane. These words were very familiar to me as I have heard them shared before. We do hold our best memories close and dear, having repeated them often. Amazing growth through the years as well. We have taken the good, the bad and the bountiful and carved our lives from those experiences. So good to have shared so much of it with you and Bobby. I too have enjoyed looking back the older I become and relishing this abundant life we have been given.

  9. This left me in happy tears. Great writing, friend. What a full and blessed life you’ve lived…so glad God chose for our paths to cross.

  10. What a beautiful and poignant blog Cathee. I had to choke back tears as I read it and felt like I was living it with you.

    As we get older, it’s such a treasure to look back and see how our faithful Father has carried us from valleys to mountain tops…all the way.

    I have a new favorite song that is so appropriate for each of us in this season of our lives. The words really speak to me and it has become my anthem.

  11. You could have kept this going and going and I know you will. God has watched over you all these years, protected you and given you the gift of helping and encouraging others.
    Have a wonderful summer….keep the memories alive.

  12. Cathee, what a blessing reading this, your trip down memory lane. You and Bob are truly a blessing to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are so blessed to have Bob– what I wouldn’t give to have Dennis back– but God had other plans. May God continue to bless you as you bless others through your ministry. Love you and Bob bunches!

  13. Your story moved me to tears. The words melted into my heart.
    I think this is your best blog ever as it reveals your heart and soul, and it’s beautiful! Love you for sharing these tender moments.

    • Agreed, I have tears myself. Happy belated birthday to you. You truly are beautiful inside and out. Love you ❤️

  14. I remember the first time I heard you. It was at Restoration Church, I went home and told Shelley I just heard a lady who truely speaks from her heart.You are a good and faithful servant to our Lord God

  15. A beautiful affirmation of the sweetness of walking with God. You are truly His beloved faithful servant. Lovely piece, Cat.

  16. Our lives are so full of sweet and bittersweet memories intertwined with family and friends who have shared it all. I Samuel 7:12 is an anthem that is so true. Today I am sitting alone in my son’s home in Naples remembering. Thanks for being such a good friend and example of acceptance and love through it all. You’ve blessed my life! I know we will end it all some day with arms raise and hearts full of praise to Him. Love you.

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