I read this morning on the CNN website about the death of 61-year old Dianne Odell, a woman who had lived practically her entire life in an iron lung after contracting polio as a 3-year old child. An emergency power generator, set to start automatically in the event of a power outage, failed to start and could not be manually activated when the home lost electrical power. Efforts to use a hand pump attached to the iron lung also failed to save Dianne’s life.
Though confined to the seven-foot metal tube for almost 60 years, Dianne didn’t allow her conditions to destroy her spirit. She obtained a high school diploma, took college courses, and wrote a children’s book. On her 60th birthday in February 2007, family and friends held a party for her at a downtown Jackson, TN hotel with more than 200 guests attending. She had a 9-foot birthday cake and received cards and letters from people across the U.S.
In 1994, she was quoted as saying, “I’ve had a very good life, filled with love and family and faith. You can make life good, or you can make it bad.” It’s hard to imagine more difficult and challenging circumstances in which to live, yet Dianne Odell maintained a positive spirit and attitude to the end. I think the key to how she was able to do so is found in the three things she identifies as filling her life—love, family, and faith. Refusing to let life’s adversities conquer her spirit, Dianne Odell made the most of the life she had been given. I’m challenged by her example and pray that her story will inspire all of us to live focused on what matters most—-love, family, and faith.