Two weeks ago, Aunt Bessie died. She was my (Dorothy’s) last remaining aunt and was in her 99th year, outdoing my Mum who died two years ago, just before her 98th birthday. Those two girls were definitely at the front of the queue when longevity genes were given out! Aunt Bessie is survived by Uncle Tommy who, at 98+, still lives at home, cooks for himself, does his own food and clothes shopping (he’s a natty dresser who likes a nice shirt) and enjoys reading and watching the football. When I told him a couple of years ago that we hoped to go to Slovenia on holiday, he described without hesitation the countries we would need to drive through in our campervan from Amsterdam to get there. He is a mine of information on all sorts of topics and never seems to have to pause to try to remember someone’s name – yet I need to do that all the time! At the funeral meal we met up with cousins, friends and neighbours we had not seen for years and there was lots of reminiscing about childhood school holidays spent at Bessie and Tommy’s farm. They had no children of their own but gave so much time, love and care to us as nephews and nieces. Since the funeral I have been thinking about their long lives and great ages – Bessie, Tommy, Mum – and how they managed to keep young within themselves for so long. Their secret? As with most mysteries, the answer lies in a combination of factors. First, they were always interested in other people – us as children; later, our children and later still, our grandchildren. Even in her last few years of some confusion, Aunt Bessie smiled to see her nephew’s grandchildren come to visit and she loved to nurse the baby on her knee. Uncle Tommy still remembers all our birthdays and the names of our children and grandchildren. The second part of the secret, I believe, was their sense of contentment in life. They were not greedy people; they shared their homes, their time and their resources and enjoyed simple pleasures without constantly looking for more. Mum was always glad to see visitors and never scolded anyone for not coming often enough! The third part of the secret was their very real sense of humility before a greater power – their God – who had made them and given them all they had. Now that Mum and all our aunts have gone, my sisters and I have become the older generation – strange thought – and it is our turn to find the secret of growing old while staying young! As the prophet Isaiah says in the Bible:
They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.