Yes, Nira (middle, with sunglasses) is getting into a hot air balloon.


Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Month

  Nira French

She Built a New Dream

by Mike Bellah

   For nearly 33 years Melvin and Nira French lived on a ranch near Dalhart, Texas. At midlife, they were a happily married couple with a dream. "We planned to build on to the house, sit on our porch, and watch our grandkids play," says Nira.

But on May 7, 1985 something happened they had not planned; Melvin died suddenly from a heart attack. "My reason for living was gone," says Nira. It took Nira longer to realize her dream also was gone. For three years she worked hard to manage their ranch alone, but determination and effort were not enough. "All I could see was work without reward," she explains. "Becoming old and bitter was not for me."

As I visit with Nira a decade later, she is anything but bitter. With obvious enthusiasm for life punctuated with frequent laughter, she shares with me her story of survival.

Letting go

"You have to turn loose of that dream," exhorts Nira. She says that there came a day when she finally realized Melvin was not coming back. It was then she felt divine intervention in her life: "I went to my knees; I really didn't want to get up." But Nira did get up, and when she did, she had a revived faith in God. "He never promised us that life would always be just like we wanted it; he just promised us that he would always be there," she explains.

A move

Three years after Melvin's death Nira moved to town. Though some felt she was abandoning ship, she knew the change was necessary to build a new dream. Nira took continuing education classes and sharpened job skills she had not used in 35 years. After a brief stint in an insurance agency, she landed her dream job.

A job

Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, Nira became the area sales representative for a long distance telephone company headquartered in Amarillo. "It put me in a position to meet people," says Nira. "I never perceived myself as a sales person, but I am a people person. I like people; in this job I make friends and meet new people every day."

New opportunities

Selling is not the only new experience in Nira's life. In the last six years she has written for the local newspaper, joined Toastmasters and a business women's association, served with Meals on Wheels, and flown a small plane. "I know no fear," she says with a laugh.

A fighting spirit

As I wrap up our visit, I realize that Nira's spirit has much to do with building her new dream. "You have to fight your dragons where they are," she tells me. "You don't solve anything by running. I'd stand and fight, but I wouldn't run."

As I think about my own midlife disappointments, I am both inspired and challenged by Nira. Life may take away our dreams, but it can't take away our hope; it can't take our faith; not if you're a fighter like Nira French.

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