Dear friends and gentle readers:

It is with a lump in the throat that I tell you this is the last column in my series of more than 10 years of writing about the joys and pains of growing old. During these years, I have made myriads of friends through the pages of the paper. I shall miss the pleasant phone calls, the kind letters - all the expressions of friendship I have received from you people whom I cannot put faces on but who have become my friends. You are too numerous to name individually, but please know I think of each of you as very personal to me.Alas, I have grown ever older. Although I'm a comparatively young 72, still I can envision that there will not be an exception in my case, after all, and that I, too, have a limited few years left on this good earth.

During these years I suppose I have many personal ends to tie up. My children are urging me to put some words on paper about my history and that of our common ancestors. I promise to do that, if they will accept the fact that none of us is perfect, even a great-grandmother, and that some of the history might not be exactly as they wish it were. It never is!

So part of my time will be spent again reflecting on the past, and even planning for the future.

My two daughters live far away - Dorothy in Massachusetts and Mary Jane in New Hampshire. I feel the need to spend time with them and with their children because it is important for the coming generation to know the departing one!

As long as I am able physically to make the journey, I intend to visit as often as they can put up with me!

During the past 10 years I have taken many nostalgic trips through my memories, memories that I find I have shared with many of you readers, even though we might have been strangers when we were young. It is this common bond we share, the way we can "remember when" the same circumstances, the same places, the similar fears and joys and sorrows. Our age and memories have given us a strong friendship.

I don't know what exactly I will do next week when, instead of thinking, "What can I write about?" I will seem to have time on my hands. Perhaps I will decide that I can clean a closet and put everything away in good order. I'm not too optimistic about that possibility, however!

You readers have helped me to be more positive about growing old. It is surely not the worst stage of life. There is a certain comfort in being quiet and reflective. We are building new memories each day, memories we can share when we meet old friends. I wish I could see you and clasp your hands in friendship.

You have all given me much during the past 10 years. If I have reciprocated in any way, I am grateful to you.

Now, if you see an "older" as compared to a "younger" woman limping in pink jogging shoes that do not match her blue suit, perhaps you might walk up to her and say, "Pardon me, but aren't you Mary Bowring?" I'll be delighted to respond.