A Facebook friend of mine reported today that her mother has just passed away after living for 100 years. The post reminded me that one of my aunts lived over a century and shared memories of the old days (crossing the country in a covered wagon) that to her were just as vivid as yesterday. She was physically frail for years and lived in a nursing home of sorts where my brothers and parents and I used to visit her.
When I was young, it bothered me a great deal that during all the years of my going to grade school and high school and college, she was living in that room. She knew everybody and had her fair share of visitors, so she didn’t lack for company. While I was bothered a lot about her being in that home, I didn’t know quite how to ask why because the question would have implied that somebody in the family in her part of the country should have taken her in.
When Kirk Douglas died at 103 in February, the press and those who knew him talked about his accomplishments and the pride he must have had in the success of his extended family. Of course, Douglas’ life was a public life, so his accomplishments are usually discussed in terms of movie roles. That’s not the case with our own family members
A Century of Progress
The 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago was called “A Century of Progress.” While it celebrated industry and invention, I always liked the larger meanings of its theme because I think they can apply to all of us whether we live 100 years or not. I have no idea what most people believe is the over-arching purpose of their lives. I think our purpose is to make progress, spiritual progress, more than wealth, power, or acclaim.
When we talk to people who’ve lived long lives, we tend to talk about what they remember and how they felt when monumental events and discoveries were made. Perhaps it’s too private to ask them how they’ve changed, and I suppose most would think it vain to even answer such a question. The standard joke about old-timers is that they reached an advanced age by smoking a pack of cigarettes a day along with a quart of whiskey.” Too bad that’s not true for most people.
My belief system doesn’t presume those who live a century do so from luck, fate, or the Lord’s intervention. I think they learn and continue learning and have plenty of advice to pass along to others if and when they found anyone willing to stop thinking about the latest fads and listen to their philosophies.
It would be presumptuous to suppose one became perfect during their one-hundred-year stay on this planet. But one hundred years of improving day by day is worthy of mention. I can’t help but see that improvement as a Century of Progress.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.