By Amy Heydlauff
This month I attended a memorial service for my Grandmother, who was closer to 104 than 103 when she died earlier this year. Not surprisingly, all in attendance spoke of her long and satisfying life. Read on because I believe I may have identified her one secret to a long and meaningful life.
She did many of the things they talk about in The Blue Zones – a book about pockets of people on earth who live the longest. I’ll tell you about her health habits, but they aren’t a secret, of course. She ate well with a focus on whole grains, fruits and especially vegetables, at least until her last decade when she indulged her sweet tooth. Unlike many who live alone for decades, she prepared real, balanced meals for herself.
Most of her life she was active. She gardened, raising and preserving much of the produce her family ate. She also raised five children in a time when you walked up the stairs to check on the children rather than depending on a monitor. Perhaps my earliest memory of Grandma is walking into a darkened room and discovering her doing yoga! For decades Grandma stretched, balanced and focused through her yoga practice.
Grandma, who loved a good party, went to Speak Easies during prohibition. But by her mid-thirties tobacco and alcohol were crossed off her list of pleasures. She gave them up for good and never looked back.
She was fully engaged in the world. She believed her life had purpose and sought opportunities to provide value to her days and the days of the people around her. Right up until her last few years she learned. And learned. And learned. She read everything, followed politics closely and wrote her local and national elected officials regularly. She also wrote us. She was a master correspondent. And it kept her connected to the world around her.
When she was in her early 90’s she gave her minister a letter she wanted read at her funeral. It had been sealed all those years and we were intrigued to hear from her, from the grave. In her letter, I believe, was the key to the true secret of her long life.
First, let me lay the foundation for what I believe kept her alive and engaged for so long. In the letter her consistent message was one of gratitude. Like centenarians in The Blue Zones, she was a person of faith. To the end she trusted in a higher power. And she gave thanks for the blessing of her life. Here’s where I tell you Grandma’s secret to a long life.
We weren’t surprised to hear her humble thanks but we also know it wasn’t her default mode. She worked her whole life on being her best self and gracefully accepting the painful things in her life. I believe a big part of the reason she lived so long is because she was always striving. She didn’t see herself as a finished product and just kept working on it.
Whatever it is you want to change about or banish from your life – keep working on it. I think that’s the legacy Grandma left us.
And now she has earned her peaceful rest.