Dr. Kristen Eddy, Clinical Psychologist
As we age, we look back on our years and, hopefully, feel a sense of pride at the things we’ve done. Erikson’s ultimate stage of Psychosocial development, integrity vs despair, describes this look back on either a life well-lived (integrity) or years of regrets and lost opportunities (despair.) Helping the patients in my care to ease the sting of life-regrets and realize a sense of self pride and accomplishment has proven to be a powerful tool.
As I establish a therapeutic relationship with my elderly patients, I love to ask them, “what, in your life, are you the most proud of?” Usually I hear “my children;” “my family;” “my work.” So imagine my shock and surprise when, interviewing this quiet, reserved, diminutive, no-fuss-or-fanfare, 99 ½ year old woman, I heard, “I was a Rosie the Riveter during The War.”
As a big WWII history geek, I know very well about the pivotal role this group of women played, not just in the war effort but in irrevocably changing the way women were seen. As I made my own way through nearly 3 decades of education, it was always at the forefront of my mind that my equal access to that very education and ultimately, employment, was earned on the backs of the women who came before me. Sitting with her, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude, staring at the very back I’d stepped on to transcend the glass ceiling myself. It was because of her and her sorority of women – the very females who cracked that glass ceiling, climbed through, and put a ladder down for the rest of us girls – that I have the amazing life I have today.
I had to find a way to thank this woman (with whom I share a name) to show her what her courage, her strength, her accomplishment meant to me and millions of other women. On Wednesday August 2, 2023, I got the chance to do just that. Along with the help of Mimi, Ari, Pen, Lawrence, and the awesome team at Pasadena Meadows, we welcomed Congresswoman Judy Chu as she awarded Mrs. Virginia Bellemeur the 2023 Congressional
Lifetime Achievement Award. Watching this quiet little woman come to life in front of the camera, joking with the Congresswoman and telling her unique story of her incredible work, I knew without a doubt that for her, there was only a sense of great pride and integrity – no despair. I checked in on her later that evening, as she sat there on her bed, shoulders still draped with the silk, red-white-and-blue scarf her granddaughter gifted her for the occasion, smiling and reminiscing on the day. “You know, 80 years ago, when all this started, no one thought women were of any use outside the home. We sure changed that.”
As she tried to thank me for my efforts in arranging the day’s events, I reminded her once again: “I had to find a way to thank you.” To my delight, she responded: “Well, kid, mission accomplished.”