111 Years

24 Jan

Last week, my Great Aunt passed away.  She was 111 years old.  No, that’s not a typo.  Born in 1902, she was South Carolina’s oldest resident, and lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and saw the terms of 19 United States Presidents.

A teacher, an artist, a mom, grandmother, aunt, great-grandmother and great-aunt who lived a long and wonderful life and was loved and revered by so many students, family members and friends.

Her grandson wrote the eulogy read at her funeral, and as a gal who’s been to a lot of funerals (my dad owns a funeral home), I have to say that it’s one of the best eulogies I’ve ever heard.  Here’s a few paragraphs from it:

“Whenever I have shared with someone Ma-Ma’s age through the years, they invariably wondered at her secret to longevity.  My first kidding response is that the secret lies in an occasional glass of homemade blackberry wine. But, I don’t really believe it was a few sips of wine or merely a matter of superb genes that was the source of Ma-Ma’s remarkable span here.  Rather, I think the key was in her attitude and outlook.  Ma-Ma was always eager to learn and to find something interesting and new in each day.  Her nature was to look ever outward.  Not that Ma-Ma lacked introspection, nothing could be farther from the truth, but she wanted most to know what you were doing, what you thought, who you were.  And she found all of it invariably interesting and worthy.  Ma-Ma seemed never consumed by or even overly-interested in her own problems or aches or pains or disappointments.  Life, for her, was not about her. It was about all that was around her; both those things past and those very much in the present.  Despair, boredom and fear are the things which age and atrophy our bodies, our imaginations, our minds.  Ma-Ma made no room for any of it.

Though as Ma-Ma’s grandson I may be blessed with some of her genes for longevity, I do not desire so much the same number of years as she lived as I do the quality of those years.  The testament of Ma-Ma’s long life is not, indeed, that she was with us for so long.  Instead, the testament is that she filled those years with life through eyes that looked outward on the world with interest and curiosity and acceptance.  It was never about her.  And it seems to me that such a life, in its own way, embodies the Gospel of Christ.  Jesus advocated many things, but among the most important was that we live with a view extending beyond the tips of our own noses; with hearing extending beyond the voices of our own concerns, fears, judgments and doubts; that we not miss the gift of the present in wait of an unknown future.  Jesus advocated the outward-looking life.  And Ma-Ma lived such a life.  It was never about her.  And in that example, as well as in the example of her years, lies the lesson.  Celebrate her life on this day but, please, do not forget to celebrate also the lives of those sitting right next to you.”

What a eulogy, what a life.  May we all be so blessed.

2 Responses to “111 Years”

  1. Joan February 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Cool woman! Check out http://www.supercentenarianresearchstudy.com. You should get your aunt listed here or see if you can donate some of her DNA to them!

  2. Joan February 3, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Sorry, it should have been http://www.supercentenarianstudy.com. Their name isn’t the same as their URL.

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