The Secret to a Long Good Life?
I have been helping an elderly friend of mine with her obituary. (She'll be 89 next month.) She is very artsy and intelligent and loves opera, literature, and especially Shakespeare. She also appreciates fine art, and is a bit of a painter. She is a widow, and has no children, so she wanted to be sure that when her time comes the paper will get her mother's maiden name right and all the important dates and events correct. She assured me that she feels fine, but that she intends to begin her memoir and couldn't see starting that project until her obituary was in my apparently capable hands. First things first. When we were done I asked her what she thought the secret to her longevity and fitness was. She said that when was a child, the English country town she lived in was completely self sufficient. They fed themselves with what grew or was raised within about a ten mile radius of home. Also, everyone walked or rode bicycles since cars were rare and expensive and a little scary. She said she used to ride her bike 27 miles to her older brother's farm for dinner and pedal home again. I am a cyclist and I would consider that a pretty good workout. For her, it was just visiting family. But still, that was a very long time ago. She loves to drive and has ever since I've known her (about thirty years now.)Was there anything else? "Yes", she said, "I never made any plans. I rolled with the flow." I didn't mention that I have only worked on three pre-planned obituaries in my career, including this one. I also didn't say how pleased I was that she was so happy to share her stories of her youth. She knew that. But I did ask if she ever wished she had stayed in England, if she missed the places and people she is still so fond of. She looked startled. "I am so settled here, this is my home." We looked out her sunny windows at the Alaskan mountains and Spring snow, and I thought maybe that's the trick to a long happy life. Maybe it is to be able to love your past, but not to miss it, to- as she said so well- go with the flow of time, instead of trying to swim against it.