COLUMN: The right attitude makes all the difference

A brief chat with 100-year-old Bessie brings life into perspective

By Rick Stiebel

One of the perks of keeping a foot in the journalism pool is the occasional assignment you think will be a snooze fest that turns into a wakeup call.

I had the pleasure of spending a few moments with a former long-time Sooke resident on her 100th birthday last week, and would like to think I came away a better person for the experience.

At my age, any trip to an assisted care facility can be a tad disconcerting, considering I may wind up in one of the rooms in the (hopefully) distant future.

A brief chat with Bessie’s son, Reg, put things in a different perspective, considering he’s got at least 15 years on me. I was blown away when he told me how his mom’s parents had made the journey from Saskatchewan to B.C. in a covered wagon.

I know next to nothing about genetics, but the fact Bessie’s sister made it to the century mark as well, and both her brothers carried on well into their 90s got me thinking that family tree has some pretty fruitful roots.

When he mentioned Bessie’s mom lived to a 107, I came away convinced there’s definitely more than a little cause and effect going on in that gene pool.

Which brings us back to Bessie, who seemed in more control of her faculties than, with the proper apologies intended, a lot of people I call good friends.

When I asked her what the key to longevity was, she said simply, without hesitation, “Take it one day at a time.” When someone else enquired about what was the biggest change she’s seen in her years on this planet, her reply resonated in a way that still has me reflecting on what she had to say.

She said people used to be content to stay at home, but now everyone seems to rush from here to there all the time without ever stopping long enough to look at each other. In other words, slow down, share a smile and enjoy the immediacy of the moment without worrying about comes next.

It’s solid advice as we continue along our journey to the inevitable end that awaits us all, and something I’ll make a concerted effort to live by.

As someone who used to look forward to my golden years purely for the improvements in pharmaceuticals and advances in video games, bless you, Bessie, for giving me much more to think about, courtesy of the few words we got to share.

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Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.