Grace Clark is Queen of the Henry Clay – Dr. Tom Braddock is one of her subjects.
Seldom do we stop and observe greatness when it’s practically knocking us down. This week I got it.
I observed a senior citizen who has endured huge set backs to rise above it all and build a life that spreads a kind of zest that is contagious in her community.
Grace Clark, the mother of my best friend Norma, is pushing 85 and just now hitting her stride. She holds court each day in the restaurant of the Henry Clay Hotel in West Point, Mississippi. I love to be there.
On this particular day she is surrounded by a group of her subjects who can’t seem to stay away. Some of them live in the Henry Clay, once an opulent hotel which has been restored and is now a fashionable retirement home operated by the Methodist Church. Grace is a resident and she wanders around the halls like she owns the place!
That’s remarkable in itself when you understand that Grace lost her leg a few years ago when a melanoma on her foot threatened her life. It began with a simple spot on her foot, looked like a mole, said the pedicurist who recognized the danger. It turned out to be malignant and her doctors recommended amputation to save her life.
She tried to adapt to a prosthesis – two in fact – but she turned out to be allergic to the gel pad that connected it to her leg. No problem, she just built up her arm muscles and settled herself into a wheel chair which she rolls at will around the landscape of the wonderful old historic hotel.
She gets herself out of bed and dresses each morning to go to her day job – completely volunteer, you understand. She heads for the restaurant on the first floor, where she prepares for her lunch guests just as if it were her own dining room.
“I come down here every morning and roll the silverware in napkins for the lunch crowd,” she explained. “It gives me something to do. I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. That would be depressing!” (I was thinking how I do nothing most of the day and wonder why I’m depressed.)
Her friend, Sara Roberts., who is among her frequent lunch guests, was in awe. “You know, many people in her situation would just retreat and feel sorry for themselves. Not Grace. She makes this a place where we want to come.”
The people seated around her table weren’t all senior citizens; some were politicians and community leaders. They were there to be a part of Grace’s table.
“The Henry Clay has been a godsend for her because she gets to visit with so many of her friends and customers from Rose Drug,” said Norma.
Grace worked at the drug store (which adjoins the hotel) for some 40 years. She feels right at home, and her former customers and friends join her each day for lunch in the hotel restaurant called “The Point.”
I watched them bantering back and forth, and thought, “What fun!” Maybe I should get my name on the waiting list for this place.