Today I attended the Jefferson Awards luncheon and was reminded of my dear friend Dianne Odell. A couple of years ago I was humbled to receive this honor for my friendship and support of Dianne. Dianne was born in 1947 and was the longest living polio survivor in the world confined to an iron lung. Since the age of three, she was paralyzed from the neck down and lived her life flat on her back for over 50 years, watching the world pass her by through a mirror attached to the lung just above her head. This 700 pound machine on which she depended for every breath of life was her yellow submarine, or so she loved to say.
Dianne didn't ask for polio and she didn't ask for pity or help. We met by chance when I read an article in the local paper and called and asked if I might come out and meet her. With a songwriter friend and his guitar in tow, off we went and within no time you forgot about the whizzing contraption that encased her body and you were drawn into her world. Dianne loved to sing and she sang Amazing Grace and Delta Dawn that night at the top of her lungs. I watched as her mother fed her a spoonful at a time and quickly learned that she loved caramel and chocolate. I wondered what she wore inside that machine. I wondered if she could feel anything, and if she ever wondered why me.
Over the next several years, we became friends and I invited others to meet her. Some were members of our community, some were well known, but all learned lessons of life from Dianne and none will ever forget her. Jane Seymour and her husband James Keach, actor David Keith, pop singer Matt Morris, Dallas Cowboy Cliff Harris, Broadway star Gary Morris, sisters Stella and Dolly Parton, music producers Norbert Putnam and Buddy Cannon, Vice President Al Gore and her hero Christopher Reeve. They all called and visited with her.
Dianne told me she knew she was loved and people did things for her because they wanted to and for that she felt blessed. She thought she could do nothing for anyone, lying helplessly to stare at the ceiling, watch tv or visit with guests day after day. But most days were lonely. Her parents devoted their lives and love to her care, as did her two sisters. Dianne wrote a children's book about a little dim star, Blinky, who was afraid no one would ever want to make a wish on him. She attended college, received an honorary doctorate, was a Paul Harris Rotary fellow, and was always ready to console her friends and lift their spirits.
We had fundraisers for her to supplement her around the clock care. We had parties for her. We decorated her Christmas tree. We cooked and would have a girls night giggling and eating dinner with her. Each time we left, I always thought of all the things we would see, feel, smell, taste, and experience before we would see her again. She would only meet those people who chose to enter her room and experience what took place there in a rural corner of western Tennessee.
She loved this chocolate mousse and I made it for her numerous times. She loved it when my dog, Senator, stood on his hind legs and nuzzled her checks. She loved anything purple or pink. She loved people, life, her family, her church and most importantly her Lord. And he sent some heavenly angels to carry her home almost a year ago now. I will never forget her and my prayer for each of you is that you have a Dianne Odell in your life, because your life will be so enriched by it.
Today one of the Jefferson Award recipients said that winnng the award for community service was like winning a prize for eating chocolate - it's just something he loved doing. And you know, that's how I felt about Dianne, being her friend and helping her in some small way was just something I loved. Please google the Jefferson Awards which were started by Jacquline Kennedy Onassis and make this mousse either for yourself or for someone who inspires you the way Dianne Odell did all who knew her. Now she's our angel and I just bet this is still a favorite with her.
Tennessee Whiskey Mousse
8 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup Jack Daniels
2 tablespoons butter
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ cups whipping cream, whipped
In a double boiler, heat chocolate, Jack Daniels and butter until the chocolate and butter are melted. Cool for 10 minutes. In a small heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks, sugar and water. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture reaches 160 degrees, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat; whisk in chocolate mixture. Set saucepan in ice and stir until cooled, about 5-10 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon into dessert dishes. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. You can top with a spoonful of whipped cream and shaved chocolate if you like. Visit http://designsbygollum.blogspot.com for Foodie Friday.