September 5, 2016
Lillian Durodola -The New 90
Some say 40 is the new 20, and 60 is the new 40. What is 90? More specifically, what is 92? In the case of Lillian Durodola, it is well-coifed, lucid, alluring, chic and ethereal. These are only a few of her many pleasant attributes I encountered during a recent visit with her. I am not speaking of “visit” in the nursing home/hospital sense. I stopped by her apartment where she lives independently. I hadn’t seen her for a while, but she looked exactly the same as when I met her some 30 years earlier. Her shiny straight silver-gray hair was pulled to one side and neatly knit into a stylish plait. Early in the visit, I witnessed her “sweet-talk” the maintenance man into committing to immediate attention to some needed repairs. I heard the entire playful exchange myself!
Lillian was about my age, 60-something, when I witnessed her being licensed to preach. Her gorgeous thick hair was already a sparkling gray and at the time I wondered to myself why she would bother. In my eyes, she had lived a spectacular life. She had spent 30 years living and raising her children in Nigeria in a village where her husband was the son of a king. She was well-educated, well-spoken, and so cosmopolitan. She had worked as a missionary and publisher while in Nigeria. Her adult children came around our church often and they were also very attractive, well-educated, and had great careers. It was rare to see any woman, let alone a 60-something year old woman in a traditional African-American Baptist pulpit at that time. And, I wondered why she would willingly go through the hours of preparation necessary to pass the catechism and scrutiny administered by a group of pompous old black male pastors who themselves had only recently “allowed” women to sit on their pulpits.
What should we 60-somethings be doing today? Lillian suggests that we write our stories. “People age in very different ways,” she said, “and you have to be prepared. My own was shocking. In Nigeria, I was head of publishing of three divisions and I could think pretty well. As I get older, my mind seems to be fading. I was not prepared for that.” Lillian says we must not only tell our stories to our children, but we must pray for our children. “Pray that they will let the Lord move in their lives.”
Lillian’s mother, who she describes as an “African-American pilgrim” also sends some advice to women. Lillian told me a delightful story from her childhood. About an hour before her father would come home from work, her mother would take a bath and do her hair. Then she would get all dressed up. Her father would knock on their bedroom door and her mother would say “Just a minute.” He would wait a while and then knock again. She would say, “You can come in now.” Lillian asked her mother why she would get all dressed up every day. Her mother said, “It’s one thing to get a man; it’s another thing to hold him.”
Lillian says there was no one like her mother. I say there is no one like Lillian. Why did she desire to become licensed to preach at such a late age? Because she too is a pilgrim, making inroads for those who were to come later. Those preachers could never justify not licensing her; therefore, they would have to license other younger women who followed.
Lillian has a grandson who thinks she is next to God. He says, “Tell Grandmother and she will pray and it will happen.” I think he is on to something!
You can watch a conversation with Minister Lillian Durodola on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k50fItfh6c8 It was recorded when she was 86.