We recently celebrated my Great-Grandmother’s (Mamaw) 100th birthday. Her life story is filled with triumphs and enormous struggles that have left me wondering if a woman of today, myself included, could handle so much and still live so long. After all, she has survived eight wars, the Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and a number of personal tragedies. What has kept her going for so long? I have had the pleasure of lengthy conversations on the subject with my Mamaw and her opinions on the matter are very enlightening.
Lack of Outside Distractions
Radio was the only real household medium until the 1940’s when the first televisions were introduced. Social influence can be very time consuming and emotionally draining. With all the world’s events seemingly far away from her tiny home in Arkansas, it is understandable that Mamaw’s stress level was centered on events at home. She did not have a television until much later in life and, even then, programming was limited to three or four channels. Mamaw has never “chatted” online, used Facebook or Twitter. Her idea of social networking is to sit on the back porch and talk over coffee.
Living on a farm is non-stop work. Mamaw’s mother passed away when she was only four years old. Leaving her and her siblings to tend to themselves while her father tended to business on the farm. Without the help of modern conveniences, things like doing laundry and preparing meals were more labor intensive.
Mamaw tells stories of getting up early before school to help her sister prepare fresh biscuits in the mornings for their father and brothers. Other chores included caring for livestock, cleaning house, and tending to the garden and canning the food they grew. She had a garden most of her life, growing anything you can imagine and then canning and cooking it all herself. As an adult she worked odd jobs to help support her family while caring for them and their home. When a woman like me is in need of groceries, I just drive to the store or go through a drive-in.
Mamaw has more strength than I could ever imagine. Her parents instilled in her the importance of living a life dedicated to the Lord. She passed this on to her children, so it has continued through five generations. Through the tragic loss of her mother, the loss of her father, step-mother and siblings, the loss of her first grandchild, and the loss of her husband when she was 59, she has been able to stand strong in her faith in the Lord and his ability to lead her through her grief. Even now, as her mind fades from Alzheimer’s, she is able to wake every morning and praise God for her family and a beautiful, long life. A study was published in 1999 of 4,000 people ranging in age from 64 to 101 in North Carolina over a period of six years. As a result Harold G. Koenig, M.D., who assisted in the study, concluded that 46% of those who attended a regular church service were less likely to die during the time they were monitored.
I see women in my life being more focused on appearance, money and status than their spiritual wellbeing. Don’t get me wrong, I know we all have busy lives. When we really stop to think about it though, do we spend a little too much time stressing over things we’ve seen on the television or internet? Do we take the fact that we can walk to the refrigerator and find food ready to be cooked for granted? Let’s all take Mamaw’s advice, put down our phones, get our hands dirty and sing our praises to God. We are blessed to have modern conveniences, but let’s not let them be our reason for living. After all, if we don’t teach these things to our daughters, who will?