The Heroines

Zelpha Land Lytle

is honored with a Brick from Marthi Farha Ammar

When I think of Zelpha Land Lytle one of the first words that comes to my mind is "remarkable." Zelpha Lytle was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. Unfortunately, I knew her barely a year. I met her in 1998 and on January 29, 1999 she left us.

Zelpha's lifetime companion/husband Bill Lytle passed away less than a year before she did, and so most of the time I had around Zelpha was during her mourning, sadness, and adjustment to being alone after living with someone for more than 60 years. I am grateful for the little time I had getting to know her and, perhaps because of the loss of her husband, I had the chance to get to know her better.

Zelpha was indeed remarkable in many ways. She was 89 years old when she died, and with the exception of her slowness in movement, she looked like she was in her sixties. She had the classic "peaches and cream" complexion which certainly defied her years. Although she had an almost aristocratic way about her, I never heard one harsh, arrogant, or dehumanizing word come out of her mouth. I don't ever remember her saying anything hateful about another living being.

Zelpha Lytle was always interested in her fellow human beings, always trying to understand another's perspective. She had a very dignified way about her, but certainly without attitude or thinking that she was better. I am sure in her younger days she always attracted a crowd.

I will never forget the last time 1 saw her as she walked into her granddaughter Diane Lytle's house on Christmas Day with almost a turban head piece to protect her hair. She looked like a "hip" grandmother who might have been arriving at a royal Christmas gathering.

Almost three months after her death, what I miss most of all is Zelpha's mind. She was an extremely well-read woman. She read newspapers daily, practically from cover to cover. She read books all the time. She watched educational television, lots of history and biography programs. And she even listened to a good number of books on tape. She was a great conversationalist whom I always looked forward to talking to and inquiring about her take on the latest world events.

When she was first hospitalized, and before having a stroke, Diane and I were planning on sitting with her in the hospital or her home and watching the final days of the hearings on Clinton's impeachment. She is the only other person I knew who watched the Wye Plantation peace agreement from start to finish. We shared our differing perspectives, and lamented together the horrors of war. I truly miss my conversations with her and feel as if I had so many other things to talk to her about. I looked forward to many more conversations about current events, but even more, I wanted to know more about Zelpha, her life, her dreams, and even her regrets, if she had any. She was a compelling woman whom the deeper you knew, the more you knew there was to learn and contemplate.

I miss her smile, I miss her soft hands, and most of all, I miss her laugh. Although she was not my grandmother, and was very different than my own dear Sitti, she always made me think of Sitti and how much I miss her. It was like my friendship with Zelpha gave me a few extra months to enjoy what I hadn't enjoyed in years since my Sitti died. I will miss her forever and feel blessed that I had the opportunity to know and love her even if for a short time.

(Sitti is the Arabic word for my grandmother)

June 28, 1999