A Century of Service

Her name was Madeline and she lived her one hundred one years with gusto. Born in 1921, she witnessed the dramatic events of the twentieth century and the changes that would escalate as the era came to a close and a new one arrived. This child of the Great Depression and young woman during World War II changed and adapted to the times with a smile on her face and the faith that God would walk with her on her journey. At the end of her life she was talking on a smartphone to stay in touch with the members of her family and her many friends. She used “Alexa” to provide music in her room. She remained modern and optimistic to through and century of living plus one. 

How does a person stay as vibrant and hopeful as Madeline? How was she able to look forward rather than dwelling on the past? What makes an elder as wise as she was? How did she understand how to enjoy life and the people around her rather than attempting to control the uncontrollable march of time. Perhaps the secret lies in her unwavering faith or maybe it was her love of people or maybe it was simply her positive outlook on life. 

Madeline certainly was never granted immunity from suffering or loss. Like each of us she had her share of tragedy that no doubt shook her world. Somehow she always found a way to rise above the feelings of sorrow. She was reliant and flexible. She found joy in each encounter. 

Madeline once helped run a family hardware store and gift shop. It was a gathering place for the community. She got to know the customers as friends. She respected them and took the time to learn who they really were. They in turn loved her. Her work was so much more than just a job. 

Madeline was a caretaker by heart. She freely gave her love to her family and to everyone she encountered in her work. Her generosity and compassion was legendary and she accomplished it with a wink and panache. She was known for her elegant style, her laugher and her generosity. Even in the final years of her life she arose early, showered and dressed as though she was going to work. She joked that she did not want to appear to be an old person, someone who had given up on themselves and the times. 

Madeline inspired the people that she knew. Joy radiated from her face. She always seemed to be thinking about someone other than herself. She really wanted to know people, not just in a superficial way. She brought out the best in those who surrounded her. She seemed to understand that her purpose in life was to serve others and she embraced that role with energy and determination. 

Sometimes when someone lives to a very old age there are few people around to mourn the loss. The march of time has removed them from most of society. Their peers are gone. Their final years tend to be lonely, but not with Madeline. She took it upon herself to reach out to people. She did not wait for someone to call her or visit her. She went to them, especially if she knew that they were having a tough time. Every minute of her life was filled with her calling to be a genuine source of happiness for the people around her. She was voted “queen” of her nursing home. She lined up rides to church each Sunday and greeted everyone there with a smile and a hug. 

We should all strive to be more like Madeline. It is when we move out of ourselves and consider the needs and longings of the people that we encounter that we feel more alive. When we take the time each day to let someone know that we are thinking of them, the energy of their joyful response is the panacea for the cares and woes that we may have. Reaching out to others is a simple but powerful idea, and if we do it because we truly appreciate that person regardless of who they are, the actualization we give them radiates back to us.

Madeline showed everyone how to grow old gracefully. She moved with the times and appreciated the changes that she witnessed. She did not enshrine a stubborn insistence to cling to the past. She instead saw the beauty in each season of her life and changed when it was time to do so. She saw the brilliance and innovativeness of the young and encouraged them to push us all forward. 

Madeline’s life should be an inspiration to us all. She transcended time and ignored the aging of her body by keeping her mind living vibrantly in the present moment. She made everyone feel as though they were precious to her because they were. She spent a lifetime helping people to be their best selves. Hers was one hundred one years of finding happiness wherever she went. She devoted a century to the service to others


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