October 22, 2019

Ancient Wisdom

One of the main reasons I chose to go home to the UK this month was to see my Granny. She is a mighty 102, going on 103, and at that sort of age time is of the essence. The money I can always earn back…the time with Gran, not so much!

Sad to say she had deteriorated quite a bit from when I last saw her two years ago, she is very frail now. Her skin is paper thin and her hearing and eyesight are reduced to almost nothing. She did know it was me though, on and off. I had been there about an hour when she said to me:

Gran: “When are you leaving dear?”

Me: “Gran, I’ve just got here. I came 12,000 miles to see you. What do you mean when am I leaving?”

Gran: “When are you leaving school dear? It must be coming up”.

Me: “er…Gran…I am 41 today. It’s my birthday. I left school over 20 years ago”.

Gran: utterly bemused. “Did you really dear?” big silence. “Well blow me”.

Wow. She tells some amazing stories does Gran, about things like rationing in the war. She was one of many Cornish families that were literally starving; all the fish that would be caught by the fisherman was allocated to the war effort. Knowing this the local fishermen would “accidentally” drop some of their catch on the beach as they loaded the lorries that were London bound. She and her sisters would scurry in and collect the spilt fish in their skirts and run home so their mother had something to feed them that night. Times were hard indeed. What blows my mind is that she is not talking about World War 2 but World War 1!

All these things have happened in Grans lifetime:

  • The sinking of the Titanic.
  • The First World War (she lost her father)
  • The Great Depression
  • Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin
  • Homes no longer lit by candles and lamps but electricity
  • The Second World War (she lost her first husband)
  • The first man on the moon
  • Assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King
  • Television was invented

Wow.

Being so old, time has taken on a new dimension for Gran, it’s an incredible perspective to have. The things I worry about that seem so very big and so very scary when I lay them against the context of a life lived over an entire century recede and seem very small indeed.

She has lost husbands, and children. She has starved and she has prospered. She is a great, great, grandmother. She is the most resilient woman I have ever met. In the family we secretly call her T.I.O. (“The Immortal One”…da da dah!!). She is a revelation. She has an incredible strength of will. She is the stubbornest woman on the planet (my husband always does a polite little cough and roll of his eyes at this point).

I will try and honour Gran’s words and reach a little higher, try a little harder, be a little braver.

I wanted to ask Gran what she had learned over a lifetime that had spanned so much. I don’t know that she could really hear me to be honest. She had sort of drifted off. When the time came to say goodbye, it was especially hard, as at 102 it’s more likely goodbyeforevergoodbye than seeyoulatergoodbye. After a while she opened her eyes and held my hand and said just five words:

“Always have faith in yourself”.

She gripped my hand and repeated it, so I felt sure it was meant for me “Always have faith in yourself”.

And that was it. That was her message. She then sat back and promptly dozed off. “Always have faith in yourself” were what will probably be our last words.

Wow.

So, I pass them onto you. Century old wisdom from someone who hasn’t read a self-help book in their lives and probably is unaware that such a thing even exists!

Whatever you are doing that scares you, or that worries you try and put it in the context of a century long life well lived. When I do my problems seem very small indeed. We have so much more resilience than we think. I will try and honour Gran’s words and reach a little higher, try a little harder, be a little braver.

“Always have faith in yourself”.

Best advice ever. Thanks Gran.