In his weekly blog, Fr Paddy Byrne honours his Church of Ireland neighbour Mrs Michaels who is to soon celebrate her 90th birthday.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 1 July 2009

Soon my next door neighbour Mrs. Laura Michaels will celebrate her Ninetieth birthday. This is a significant and wonderful event; her life continues to make a huge impression not just to her family, but to our wider community. Laura is an ordinary woman who has achieved extraordinary things in a life filled with rich blessing. Laura is loved not just as mother and grandmother, but by a community who recognize this woman to be blessed with resilience, courage, generosity and faith. For many years Laura has been confined to her wheelchair, because of amputation surgery that removed both her legs. Laura is a very recognizable woman on the Royal Oak Road, sitting at her front door, open to greeting, time to chat and listen.

Laura never sees her situation as confining, but rather blessed. She is an inspiration in her outlook. A woman who is always busy nurturing her creativity. Her many hobbies and talents include Knitting and sowing, painting, baking and cooking, crosswords and puzzles gardening and vegetables. A woman who is busy, who admits that work and effort enhances our quality of life and indeed pro longs life. For months leading up to Christmas rich smells of baking fill her home as she prepares dozens of Christmas cakes and puddings for all her friends and family.

A member of the local Church of Ireland community, a woman whose faith is grounded in a God who she has cultivated a personal relationship with throughout her long life. Like any human journey Lauras life has walked the valleys and hills and embraced the joys and struggles that accompany us all. I often ask Laura whats the secret of her long and fruitful life? Her smile speaks for itself. Perhaps we can all learn from this great woman. All of us need to appreciate the things that we have, instead of longing for the things that are unattainable. Far away hills are always greener, yet so much energy and effort is lost in our culture, because we are struggling to be grounded and present to the place we find ourselves now. Laura is active. Active in the community, busy in her hobbies and interests. Being active brings with it fulfillment and contentment. For this reason we must cultivate the rich treasures of gifts and talents that God has planted in all our hearts. There is no point in looking back with regret and disappointment when we consider our lives. Now is the time to step forward with a new spring in our heels. Now is the moment to begin in a new way that brings with it a spirit of appreciation for all that we have and a confidence to face whatever has to happen.

One of the practical things Laura attributes her long life and great energy is too eating plenty of raw onions!! May the good Lord continue to bless this most gentle and inspirational lady. A lady who is loved so much by the people of Bagenalstown. Like her front door, Lauras heart is so open and generous to the needs of others.