Wisdom of Grace

This is the third in my Growing Older series in looking back at the lessons others have given me through the years. Lessons in aging with grace. When I started this series, this was the first person I thought of when I say the phrase “aging with grace.”

Aunt Alma

My earliest memories of my Aunt Alma were of a joyous, funny woman who, although she was my grandmother’s sister, acted nothing like my stiff, strict grandmother. Although she was a graceful older woman, she was like one of us kids, preferring to get down on the floor with us and join in our games. She would play hide and seek. She would bake us cookies and give us candy. She would chase and tickle us as we ran through her house. She insisted that a long life must be filled with laughter. And that the national drink was coffee – which is why the pot was always on at her house and someone was always stopping by for a cup. I loved and looked up to this wonderful woman, even though she barely stood 4 foot 10 inches.

The focus of my aunt’s life was my Uncle Arvid. They had met and married at a young age. Anyone looking at them could see they were very much in love. Even as a child I could see it, and it gave one a sense of security whenever you were with them. Not to be cliche, but they really acted and believed that love conquered all. And their life reflected that. Aunt Alma always liked to tell us as kids that Uncle Arvid was the love of her life, and that with him anything was possible. “You will find one too someday, then you’ll know what I mean,” she would say. They would playfully tease each other and even the occasional argument ended in teasing and laughter. “Never go to bed angry” was another one of her sayings.

The death of my uncle rocked my aunt’s world. Her better half was suddenly gone. But she eventually regained her composure, and embraced life once again with the laughter, joy, and childlike happy outlook on life that she had when he was alive. She surrounded herself with younger people, enjoying life. She filled her days with activity. One particular holiday our family had gathered and at the table Aunt Alma told a joke she had heard from one of her neighbors. It involved using popcorn as a dressing in a turkey. “That’s how you blow the ass off a turkey,” she laughed. I thought my grandmother was going to stroke out. All us kids laughed with Aunt Alma. She was our hero for saying a cuss word at the table. In the end, Alzheimer’s took her, but through it she retained her childlike, joyous personality, always looking to tell you a joke. Never mind that it was the same one over and over again, she always laughed as if it was the first time you heard it.

My Aunt Alma showed me by example that life is limitless and ageless when you have love and laughter in your life. I’ve recently discovered my own love of my life, and I’m beginning to understand what she meant. With such love, one’s life is truly limitless. You feel you can conquer anything. Life still has it’s highs and lows, but the lows are much more tempered with the support of love. There’s also safety and comfort in having someone else there with you on this life journey. When life is so filled, it doesn’t leave you wanting more. I see so much of my Aunt Alma and Uncle Arvid in my own relationship – laughter, childlike play and joy, mutual respect. It reaffirms to me that this love is real, that it is meant to be. Such love has also tempered my fear of growing old. Perhaps my fear of aging was really the fear of aging alone.

Thanks to love and my Aunt Alma’s wisdom of grace, I’m not afraid anymore.