For most of us, the aging of the body is not something we can control, responding to our bidding whenever we would like. When we see the elderly full of energy and life despite their advancing years, all of us take notice of this unexpected achievement. And that is what the Catholic Times did recently with its interview of 86-year old Teresa Hong, who has recently published her 17th book of poetry.
she has had two serious operations recently, she continues her reading
and writing, and has no plans to stop. "When my hand is no longer able
to hold the pen, that may be the end to my writing," she says, adding a
"but" at the end, perhaps implying that even then she will find a way to
continue writing. She admits to having misgivings about much of what
she has written--and she has written since 1945--telling the interviewer
she no longer desires to hear her poetry read, though she is resigned
to these inevitable events. Her satisfaction now comes, she says, from
recalling 70 years of loving relationships with others; the joys, the
suffering, and the pleasures of life have all become part of her story,
and part of her poetry.
Whatever she has seen, heard and thought
during her long years of life have found their way into her poetry and
other writings. Writing for her is like breathing, she says, but she
never thought her writing had any great merit. Though people call her a
poet, and she accepts the title, all she is doing, she insists, is
answering the call to write, and the pages just follow naturally.
she finished her 15th book of poetry, she thought that was a sufficient
goal to have in life, but she has exceeded that goal by two. It was
during this time that she had the operations and was distressed that her
writing years might be over, but God allowed her to take pen in hand
again and continue writing. The pain and personal struggles she endured
during this time have been the miracle drugs, she says, that enabled
her to return to writing, purified and hardened.
More than the
energy that comes to her when she writes, it is her faith, she says,
that is all important, even though she has not been consistently
faithful. She is always conscious of the many graces she has received in
life, and grateful for being a life-long Catholic. After publishing
her last book of poems, all that is left, she says, is to prepare for
death with dignity and a firm resolve. Thankfully, she will leave behind a remarkable body of work for
all of us to reflect on and enjoy.