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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: Five years ago today, Cary Grant died -- just seven weeks before his 83rd birthday. Not a bad score. He couldn't have written a better ending himself.

Gary Grant was a superstar in every sense of the word. He wore his stardom with grace and dignity, and for all his fame and adulation, he remained incredibly unspoiled.

In his later years, he made occasional appearances in theaters around the country, billed simply as "A Conversation with Cary Grant." He didn't need much advertising; one small ad would appear in the local newspaper, and the house was immediately sold out.

Everywhere he appeared, he received a standing ovation simply for walking out on the stage. He had no routine; he just sat perched on a long-legged stool in the center of the stage with a spotlight beamed on his famous face, and for two hours he answered random questions from the audience. They loved it. And so did he.

He closed his "conversation" with a piece he called "A Meditation," saying he didn't know who wrote it, but it expressed his own sentiments about growing older. It also expresses mine. And here it is:

"Now Lord, you've known me a long time. You know me better than I know myself. You know that each day I am growing older and someday may even be very old, so meanwhile please keep me from the habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

"Release me from trying to straighten out everyone's affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody, helpful but not overbearing. I've a certain amount of knowledge to share; still it would be very nice to have a few friends who, at the end, recognized and forgave the knowledge I lacked.

"Keep my tongue free from the recital of endless details. Seal my lips on my aches and pains: They increase daily and the need to speak of them becomes almost a compulsion. I ask for grace enough to listen to the retelling of others' afflictions, and to be helped to endure them with patience.

"I would like to have improved memory, but I'll settle for growing humility and an ability to capitulate when my memory clashes with the memory of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that on some occasions, I may be mistaken.

"Keep me reasonably kind; I've never aspired to be a saint ... saints must be rather difficult to live with ... yet on the other hand, an embittered old person is a constant burden.

"Please give me the ability to see good in unlikely places and talents in unexpected people. And give me the grace to tell them so, dear Lord."

P.S. DEAR READERS: Many books have been written about Cary Grant, but if you want to read the only authentic history of his life and loves, get the book "Evenings With Cary Grant" by Nancy Nelson, published by Morrow. It's an absolute treasure.

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