September 8, 2015

The Secret to a Happy Life—From an 89-Year-Old.

happy grandma

I sat awkwardly in the brightly lit hospital room, nearly overwhelmed by the rich smell of lilies that lined the window sill, but heartened by the still-strong quality of my 89-year-old grandma’s voice.

We all feared that this “simple” surgery might be the turning point for Grams, who has been wholly independent and adventurous even as her hair turned gray, then white and her wrinkles grew wrinkles that grew wrinkles. But—talking with her then I knew that was not the case.

To sum it up, she asked the doctor if her recent sky-diving jump was to blame for her infected gallbladder. When he laughed and told her “No,” her next question was “Will this surgery keep me from jumping again next year?”

She is a gold medalist in the sport of skydiving, and that’s something you don’t give up on just because you’re 90 years old with a recently removed gallbladder. Apparently.

As we chatted, Grams doled out life lessons like they were simple instructions for turning on the lights.

“You’ve just got to do what makes you happy today. That’s what I do. I don’t worry about what’s happening tomorrow, or what happened yesterday—worry is a waste. I just think about what I can do to be happy today, and I do it. That’s why I’m always smiling,” she said as she cracked herself up.

Here I got a little choked up, but tried to just laugh and be as casual as she is and tell her she’s right.

My gramma is a terrific example of a life lived mindfully. She has accomplished every goal she’s ever dreamed up—from flying a single engine airplane across the U.S., to racing motorcycles in the desert and even building a home in the mountains with her own two hands (and my grandpa’s two hands, too).

Even through her hardships, of which there were many, I always remember her smiling. Now I know her secret!

As I helped her into a comfy robe to get ready for a walk around the hospital, she asked me about my boyfriend gone north to Alaska for a new adventurous job as a bush pilot. I think Grams loves him almost as much as I do.

“I bet you never thought you’d be this happy, did ya, kid?” My life sort of flashed before my eyes—all my hopes and dreams… every star I ever wished on. Nothing could have prepared me for how happy I was at that moment. The vision of contentment I had painted for myself over the years was just a lackluster two-dimensional picture compared to the vibrant, buzzing happiness that overfilled my heart and spilled out into the world around me.

“I never did, Gramma, and I can’t believe it.”

We strolled around arm-in-arm, both so completely absorbed in the moment that for all we knew, maybe the world was burning outside. We looked at the art on the walls and lamented the awful state of hospital tuna salad sandwiches. We smiled and laughed and without a care for tomorrow or a worry for yesterday, we were happy.



Relephant Read:

An Old Man’s Poem. (This made me cry.)


Author: Sierra Hamm

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr


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