Our personal evolution is dependent on the health and strength of our physical body, so I did a little research on the secrets of longevity and one day I realized I had all the facts right in front of my face.
If you are a Latin Catholic, you know about Novenas. It’s a celebration of the Great Guru, Jesus. We grew up Catholic and that tradition stayed with us even though many of us moved on from Catholicism. On that day, I observed my 95 year-old Grandma (now 100), actually a great-grandma to 16 children, as she prepared for the first day of the Novena (9 day prayer).
Sometimes before sunrise, Abuela got up to the bathroom after taking a sip from a huge glass of water. She keeps a glass handy all day long. Abuela came back to bed. Now she finds her son bringing her orange juice, and her daughter, who comes every Christmas to visit from Colombia, ready to start their morning chitchat. They discuss the family issues, the country and world politics and more. Not only in the early morning but also during breakfast, and at any time, she is invited to give her opinion and participate in family conversations.
The morning cannot proceed without taking care of her body. She took a shower, got dressed, did her hair, and put on lotion and make-up. I have offered to help her in the past with her hair when she looks tired, but she says “One can’t be lazy. It needs to get done!” Not too long after that, she is off doing exercises and walking back and forth on the balcony. Several weeks ago, Abuela injured her knee, and she was given a brace. A wheel chair was also brought in which she refused to use. A walker was then brought in which she used a couple of times. A few days later, she was seen in the living room without it and asked why she was not using it. Her only response was “Oh, I forgot.” (We don’t believe her.)
The most important part of Abuela’s day is prayer time. Her candles are lit. She sits on her chair and she begins. She tells me that she prays for each and every one of her children, but especially for those needing the most help at the moment. She also says that she has so much to be thankful for: She has lived so much and most of her friends with whom she met every Thursday and Friday for card games or “costureros” (sewing circle a.k.a. gossip circle) have all passed on, but she has so much family that love her and a place to live. She says that she is ready to go, but that she is fine now.
A bit before lunch, she comes into the kitchen to make the rice. She loves the taste of rice as soon as it is ready. She also comes to check how lunch is coming along because you know it has to be served before one. Abuela has a varied diet and her portions have always been moderate; now a bit smaller than before.
I can’t talk about Abuela without talking about her sense of humor. She sure has spark. A day does not go by that she does not make us laugh. She laughs at herself and she makes fun of us. Nothing mean; her view is just refreshing to all those that surround her. Today, she was making fun of my father’s designs for a new product. She tells it like it is!
Since visitors (her grand-children and great grandchildren), are soon to arrive, she checks with my uncle who always takes care of the decorations. “Are you sure this will hold-up with the wind?” “Do you think this is necessary?” “Mijito, this looks beautiful!” Then she goes to the kitchen, “What will the children drink? Is there something for the vegetarians?” Then, she walks toward her room: “I have to go get ready.” A little later, you see her in the living room: “I am done preparing. It’s time to sit. The tip will be $5.00” She says playfully.
Now the family has gathered filling up the living room with chitchat and laughter. As the time for the reading of the Novena approaches, Abuela takes the Novena and her glasses, and she sits a few feet from the nativity set mumbling that she was forced to read. I take a hold of the Novena and tell her that she does not have to do anything she does not want to do. She ignores me and proceeds to try on her glasses to read, and she says, “I don’t need these.” She puts the glasses on the table. As she begins to read, the room grows silent. She has not read a Novena since I was a little girl. Her grandchildren have never heard her read. She fluently and with emotion leads us into prayer. Wow! She does it better than any of us. We all watch in awe. Most of us wear glasses including the grandchildren. Many of us have aches and pains that impede some movement. Many of us have some pounds we could get rid of. However, we are thankful to have Abuela as our model.
Here are the lessons on longevity learned from our grandmother:
(1) Stay hydrated
(2) Stay connected to those you love and support you
(3) Keep moving
(4) Have a spiritual practice that connects you to All There Is
(5) Be Thankful
(6) Have a moderate, healthy diet
(7) Laugh at life and yourself