Ninety-two-year-old Wanda Burch Goines has a message about aging and afterlife — and the world is listening.
Goines wrote a poem called "The Giftwrap and the Jewel," which expresses that while outer beauty fades, the gem within is polished by the scrapes and bruises of life and shines brighter with each passing year.
Goines' caregiver, Kathryn Clausnitzer Wilson, filmed a stirring video of the luminous "Miss Wanda" reciting the poem and posted it on Facebook last August. The video has gone viral with more than 5 million hits, made a big splash on YouTube, and now, major news outlets are picking up the story and frequently advise readers to grab a tissue before watching the video.
It's easy to see why.
"Mother recites her poem from memory, and when she comes to the final lines, she always tears up," said Goines' daughter, Libby Goines. "She crafted this poem to where the concept is so clear, reminding us of what life is really about. The poem sets the reader back to zero."
Artistic expression came naturally to Goines, so her parents sent her to the University of Oregon, where she earned a bachelor's degree in fine art and English literature. Then she married Warren Goines, a civil engineer, and started a family.
"Raising eight kids kept me pretty busy for many years, but I kept my art going," Goines said. "And people should know that if they see somebody doing something they like, why, they can do it, too. It doesn't matter how old we are."
Goines wrote her now-famous poem when she was 80; and at 87, she wrote and illustrated a children's book, "Bunnyfluff Wants To Fly."
"You don't stop being creative just because you get to be an old lady," Goines joked.
Still living in the house her father built near Cave Junction, Goines took up painting with watercolors when she was 75. Several hospital pediatric wards now display her watercolor portraits of babies; and her painting of Oregon Caves National Monument is now a prominently featured mural in Cave Junction.
"My mother was my only art teacher," said Goines' eldest son, renowned artist David Lance Goines, whose posters are featured in museums internationally. "She taught me basic principles, like how to deal with color and form. I'm really glad she's getting this recognition at this point in her life. It's like a final bow, and she really deserves it."
Goines has led a fascinating life and never hesitated to travel in pursuit of her passions. She lived in Israel for four years, "so I could find out about all the places in the Bible. I joined every tour group and hike that I could and learned as much as I could. My faith and my church (The Takilma Bible Church) mean everything to me."
That faith has seen her through some hard times. She's outlived three of her daughters.
"I'll see them all again in heaven, so I look forward to that," Goines said.
"Miss Wanda was my Bible teacher, and she also taught history and Hebrew," Wilson said. "She's a very intellectual lady. She's a great friend and an awesome example and inspiration for so many people. She has the wholesome qualities that this world appreciates. It's really precious, everything that she's done."
Goines remains sincerely surprised by all the attention her poem is getting, which only adds to her charm.
Check out the video of "The Giftwrap and the Jewel" on YouTube.