One of the perks to cobbling stories together for Black Press Media is the assignments you think will be snoozers that wind up resonating with you long after instead.
A few memorable moments with Bessie in the midst of her 100th birthday celebrations reinforced once again the rewards reaped from keeping a foot in the community newspaper pool.
Any trip to an assisted care home for seniors can be a tad disconcerting at my age, considering you never know if you’re a couple of steps or one stumble away from living in one of the rooms you pass along the way.
A brief chat with Bessie’s son, Reg, who has a good 10 years on me, put things in a different perspective, however, once he shared the story of how his mother’s parents had made their journey from Saskatchewan to a new life in B.C. in a covered wagon.
Although I know little about genetics other than how to spell it correctly, hearing how Bessie’s mom lived seven years past the century mark and both of her brothers thrived into their high nineties convinced me that their family tree has some long and fruitful roots.
Bessie’s demeanour was a measured marriage of laid back and vibrant; happy to engage in the family, staff and residents’ celebrations, but not completely comfortable with what all the fuss was about.
When I got the opportunity to ask her what the key to her longevity was, Bessie locked me in the eyes and simply said “Take it one day at a time” without the slightest hint of hesitation. When someone else inquired about the biggest change she’s seen during her 100 years of life, her response took a little longer because there was a degree of sadness she could not contain.
“People used to be content to stay at home, but now everyone seems to rush from here to there all the time without ever stopping to look at each other, let alone spend time together.”
The message received by all within earshot was that we need slow down long enough to share a smile and enjoy the immediacy of the moment without worrying about or hurrying to whatever comes next.
That’s a solid century worth of advice we should all take to heart, especially those of us racing through the days of our lives at a full-blown gallop pushed upon us by the dizzying pace of forces beyond control.
Since we’re inevitably all headed in the same direction, maybe making the effort to slow down at least a little will add a few smiles to the miles ahead between now and our final destination.
Thank you, Bessie, from someone who used to equate old age with improvements in the power of pharmaceuticals and the quality of video games. You gifted me with an alternate perspective to ponder through the wise-owl wisdom in the words you shared.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.