Saturday, October 22, 2011

On lessons from a century of life

A few days ago, one of my close friends' grandmother passed away. She was 104 years old.

No, that's not a typo.

Though I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I did get to know her fairly well through my friend. He told me some of her stories, and stories of her, that made me laugh and made me cry. He may have a few years on me, but even he admits that it's hard to envisage or ever comprehend just how much she experienced in her lifetime. Think about it.

104 years ago, Pablo Picasso was alive and painting. John Wayne was born. Dmitry Mendeleyev, the guy who created the table of elements, passed away.

They'd just invited the first photocopier. Airplanes didn't exist yet. Let me repeat: AIRPLANES DID NOT EXIST. In fact, the term was coined in 1907.

Think back to your "modern" history class. Most of it took place in her lifetime. What a wonderful time it must have been to live! So many amazing discoveries to experience! So much to learn about and so many new places to explore!

I'm sure there is a lot my friend's grandma still could have taught me, and everyone else in my generation. She had strong opinions and values, but she seemed to be an extremely loving, warm, accepting, intelligent, life-long learner.

From my friend's stories, his grandma and I seemed to be kindred spirits. We both understood the importance of always smiling and learning to laugh. Of counting our blessings and being thankful for them too. Of appreciating the people around us and helping them in any way possible. And especially, the importance of loving, because love is the greatest blessing any one of us can bestow.

Most importantly, my friend's grandma taught me the difference between being lucky and being fortunate. Most of the times we say "I'm lucky" what we really mean is "I'm fortunate". What's the difference? You've got to work for the latter. The only time you're lucky is when winning the lottery, she used to scold him. Being at the right place at the right time for that job opportunity? That's called being fortunate that all your hard work finally paid off. Having someone to take care of you when you're sick? Yeah, you're not lucky to have them in your life, but fortunate.

It may seem like a subtle difference, but this difference is of the utmost importance. And learning to use the right word means you've learned to appreciate everything you have, to recognize that you are in control of your own destiny, and are thankful for your blessings.

That's what over a century of life teaches you.

I am fortunate to have known my friend's grandma, and I am even more fortunate that mine is still around to teach me life lessons like these. She may not be 104, but she's still got loads to share!

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