One hundred years old! Can you believe it?
My grandmother, Wilda Householder, turned 100 yesterday. Gran, as I’ve called her since childhood, is an amazing lady. Without telling you too many stories, let’s consider four lessons from Gran to help us make it to 100 years old.
Gran has always had a winsome sense of humor and a playful way with words. Even at 100, she’s sharp as a tack and quick as a whip. “Hot zigidity!,” she’d say with enthusiastic inflection if she knew I just wrote that. Gran has lived through a lot—think back over history the last 100 years. Gran has experienced so much—losing a husband 38 years ago and her youngest son 8 years ago to mention just two. Gran’s first lesson to make 100: Takes things as they are. “No use crying over spilled milk,” she’d say. It’s not that she doesn’t express emotions, but Gran seems to use a combination of humor and wisdom to balance the ups and downs of life. We can’t always change circumstances, but we can change how we deal with them.
When I asked Gran today, “What would you tell folks about what it takes to make it to 100?,” she answered quickly lifting her gaze to mine, “Live and let live.” Cliché, maybe. Simple, yes. But not simplistic. Can you see the roots of that idea in point I made above? Above we were speaking of circumstances, and here we’re speaking of people. Gran’s second lesson to make 100: Accept people as they are. It’s not that Gran doesn’t judge right and wrong; she’s a committed Christian who knows her Bible. It’s that she is not judgmental in her attitude. Humbly knowing who you are allows you to accept others for who they are.
Over the last few years Gran’s body has weakened. It’s not that she can’t feed herself or read a book or such, but that she can no longer support her own weight to walk or get out of bed or a chair on her own. She’s dependent on others. Her elderly physical disability highlights an exceptional relational ability. By the welcoming expression on her face and the kind extension of her hand toward you, Gran draws you in. Gran’s third lesson to make 100: Invite others to express love. Not only does she express her love to you by inviting conversation and a touch, but she invites you to do the same. Common kindness invites the like response.
To a person, the staff of her nursing home say to Gran when leaving her presence, “Love you,” or something similar. In talking to the staff and observing them, you know it’s not an act. She loves them and they love her. It’s remarkable. Gran takes things as they are without much complaint, she accepts people for who they are, and by her simple expressions and invitations to love she invites others to express love. These three lessons lead to our summary. Gran’s fourth lesson to make 100: Bless others by who you are. She can’t give money or gifts, she can’t do things for others, but she can share who she is. You can too. Sharing the best of who you are blesses others.
More than a decade ago I’d quipped of Gran’s good humor and good health, “She’ll outlive us all.” She may. She’s got the lessons of a long and pleasing life figured out: It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s all about who you are and how you share your love with others.
Thanks for the lessons, Gran. Thanks much more for your love.