On the way to Cracker Barrel for lunch with my 98 year-old mother-in-law, the conversation got around to her ideas on 12 Ways to Live Past 98. Thinking we were about to launch into a deeply well-thought-out discussion, I was quite surprised at the first idea on her list.
12 Ways to Live Past 98
1. Eat lots of chocolate.
I keep a stash of candy on the stereo beside the front door. The neighbor’s grandchildren come regularly, knock and then stand expectantly waiting for me to get the candy dish. This started after I got permission from their dad, and has lasted for the past 11 years. I always insist they reach in and count out exactly 2 pieces each. They call me the “Candy-Lady”. Of course I love it as much as they do because that means there is always chocolate on my table for me to eat between their visits.
2. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up.
It’s difficult being 98 years old. I try not to complain but I hurt all over. My feet hurt, my legs hurt, my shoulder hurts, by back hurts, and my knees hurt. I can’t see, I can’t hear, I can’t walk, and I can barely talk. I can’t chew, I can’t sleep, and I can’t stay awake – but I don’t plan to ever give up. Death may be coming for me, but he’ll have to chase me if he wants me.
3. Stay in touch with friends and family.
I send many cards each week. Because I know cards are meaningful to me, I figured out that it must be true for those in nursing homes and who are shut-ins. One day the daughter of a 90 year old lady I had sent a card to, rushed across the parking lot to tell me how important that card had been to her mother – and to her. Each time she receives a card, she and the daughter discuss the name on the card and recall things about them. You just never know. Why just today my friend from Germany received the flowers I sent her last week. She was so thrilled that she had to call and tell me what they meant.
4. Always try to look your best. Get dressed every morning.
Sometimes I don’t really feel good in the mornings, but after a few minutes (or sometimes a few hours), I take the time to get dressed. It seems important to always look the best I can. And I always feel better once I have done it.
5. Do things you love to do.
Read lots and lots of books. I started reading when I was very young and after chores, I would run to the barn or to the tree and climb up with a good book. I also loved working in my grandmothers flower gardens. This carried through with my mother and then into my adult life. My flowers bring me joy and I have shared flower starts with probably hundreds of people. It’s harder to tend my gardens today, but my children know it’s important so they help me.
6. Participate in adventures.
The word adventures means different things to different people. For me it might mean tent-camping across Germany when I was in my 50’s or taking my first-ever sky-lift ride when I was 70, or a hot-air balloon ride when I was in my 80’s. Then there’s the camel ride, and the 5 day trip to North Dakota two years ago to eat lunch. It was the only state I hadn’t visited and I really wanted to do that.
Some of my top adventures were in Europe. I had an audience with the Pope in Rome (along with about 6,000 other people). I ate lunch in the Eiffel Tower in Paris. And I sang to the Gondolier in Italy. I asked him why he wasn’t singing to me. He was a bit grouchy and said, “I sing, you pay.” I told him, “No, no, no, I sing, YOU pay.” As it turned out he began singing along and quit being so snarly.
Watch the interview my granddaughter did where I share about my travel adventures!
7. Don’t meddle and be a busy-body. (Especially with your in-laws).
This is true all the time but especially with your in-laws. It’s tempting sometimes to see something from my perspective and want desperately to set things right – but I must not meddle.
8. Share your gifts for as long as you can.
I have quilted and crocheted almost my entire life. As a little girl I learned this from my grandmother and my mother. I’ve tried to pass this teaching on to one of my granddaughters and she is teaching her own daughter. It’s really too hard for me to do today, but I still enjoy sharing my quilts and afghans with my children, my grandchildren and with each of my twenty-one great-grandchildren.
9. Spend time giving extra attention to little children.
Little children are so special. They need lots of extra love and attention to know they aren’t a nuisance. I always love it when little people come to my house and want to crawl all over the furniture, lean on the arm of my chair and tell me lots of non-sense. Even when I can’t understand a thing they say, I try to carry on a lively conversation with them and love to hear them laugh.
10. Don’t Fall!
This is an easy enough admonition and one my doctor says to me every time I go to the office. Easy to say, hard to do. But proceed very carefully with each step, use assistance when you need it, and be careful.
Seems silly to say this, but it’s true. Breathe every morning when you see daylight and when the sunshine appears. Breathe when the phone rings with news that is sad. Breathe when you are so happy you can hardly catch your breath. Breathe and keep on breathing.
12. Pray often, pray sincerely.
I don’t pray as often as I ought to, but I believe I pray every day as things in life occur. I pray with thanksgiving when I see little miracles take place. I pray when I see someone suffering physically or emotionally. I pray every time I think of how God spared my youngest son, Scott. I pray and rejoice with so much praise when I see how God is healing my great-grandson, Brandon. His life is a miracle. I pray for my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren when they face cancer, and sadness when someone they loves passes away.
I know this may sound silly, but here lately when I can’t sleep at night, I pray a little prayer that I prayed all through my childhood.
“Now I lay me down to sleep” …you know the words. Well, when I finish that part, I pray it all over again and say the words I said as a child. And God bless Mommy, and Daddy, and Louise, and Robbie, and Daryl. Amen. Robbie is the only one still living, but it seems to bring me comfort to pray like I did when I was little.
These are my 12 Ways to Keep Living Past 98.
What would you add to this list? Maybe some of you readers can give me some more ideas.
My thanks to Hazel Eloise Pearson Hale for sharing these insights on how she is living out her super-senior years. She is the mother of four sons, 8 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new great-granddaughter in about 6 weeks. One of her biggest joys and delights is her family and the moments she spends sharing life with each of them.