Resilient Aging: The Secret Ingredient I Learned From One of My Heroes

Resilient Aging: The Secret Ingredient I Learned From One of My Heroes

She remembers every year. And she’s not even one of my girlfriends. She’s my mom’s girlfriend. My mom’s ninety-year-old girlfriend. But every February 26, a birthday card is in my mailbox. Even though my mother died eleven years ago, her girlfriend still sends me a birthday card that includes a handwritten note.

Her name is Marie. And she is one of my heroes. Her note this year both stunned and inspired me because it offered no finer example of one of the qualities I most admire: resilience.

With children around the same ages, our families met each other over fifty years ago when my father became pastor of their church. My siblings and I stayed in their home while our parents attended an out-of-town conference. I was only six years old, but I remember sipping sweet tea, devouring fluffy mashed potatoes, and sliding across a slick wooden bench sandwiched between my brother and my sister to scoot into the coolest-ever kitchen nook booth. In the years that followed, our family moved three times to different cities and finally out-of-state, but my mother kept in touch with Marie.

Now Marie continues to be in touch with me.

Beyond the thoughtfulness of her gesture, she exemplifies what I call the cycle of resilience—a forward motion through love, loss, and healing. This year she reflected a bit, sharing a timeline of her life for the last few years. Besides the extraordinary penmanship, note the clarity of the structure: the date, the event, the consequence, and most importantly, the commentary.

Marie's Letter

Yes, she fractured her pelvis and broke her femur and then spent two months in a nursing home before coming back to her home to live alone.

And her commentary? Most of us say that we survive our challenges. We get through our difficulties. We may grin and bear it, slog through, or get it over with. But do we ever take the time to say that we recover nicely? Twice?

I marvel at Marie’s grit of acceptance and her positive momentum. She made me smile, deep from within. I’ve decided I want to be more like Marie.

Marie with daughter Rita

Marie with daughter Rita

Marie is not online, but I tracked down her daughter who is. She filled me in on her mom’s latest adventures. Marie is now doing yoga. She drove herself to early voting last week. She turned ninety-one this month.

You go girl!

So often we go through life’s challenges and fail to give ourselves credit. Marie taught me that it can be energizing to pause, reflect, and acknowledge each achievement. In fact, I think it can be a powerful ingredient in living resiliently.

When we choose to declare that we have recovered nicely, we put a bow on that “gift” of experience—and that can make us feel more confident that whatever comes next, we can handle that, too.

How about you? Have you recovered nicely from a challenge? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best—always,

Becky  (Nana B)

Resilient Marie

Photo Courtesy of Baptist Children’s Home
Resilient Marie

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