Secret of Life

Teachers show up for me at the most random moments.  Unexpectedly intersecting and learning from them is one of the things I love most about the travels my work requires. Years ago, while observing operations at a client’s office in Nashville, Tennessee, I wandered out into the reception area in search of a coffee refill. Sitting in a wheelchair, beautifully coiffured and dressed to the nines was an elderly woman, with frail bones and bright eyes, still retaining some of her obvious earlier beauty. We smiled at each other and as I began to fill my cup, she said, slightly louder than was necessary, “I’m almost 100, you know!”

Sensing the comment was directed at me, I turned, congratulated her, and then asked, “What’s the secret… to reach that milestone?” In the split second it took me to ask it, I had already anticipated she would ponder the question, lean in, and whisper the “secret” intently to me.  Instead, she practically startled me but immediately shouted back, with the cutest grin and a clipped pace, “I keep busy, ask a lot of questions, forgive quickly… and frequently put my husband on a plane!”

I laughed out loud… as did everyone else seated in the room.  She was adorable.  And as I thanked her, wished her many more good years, and made my way back to work… I couldn’t stop thinking about her short but poignant list.

  • I keep busy: with work I enjoy and hobbies that interest me.
  • I ask a lot of questions: constantly learning and expanding my understanding.
  • I forgive easily: releasing the internal burdens of bitterness, anger, and stories that grow and intensify over time.
  • Put my husband on a plane … frequently: Loving someone and enjoying love in return but never losing a sense of myself (and clearly not her sense of humor, either!) or nourishing the necessary balance of spending time caring for what my body and mind need to live a whole and happy life.

I never got her name but I thank her for the invaluable wisdom.

“The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure.”

~ Tibetan Proverb


  1. I love this, Katherine!

    My husband of 54 years goes elk hunting for 6 weeks every year. A neighbor asked me last year how I deal with that year after year. My honest response was that I actually enjoy time alone. My husband is very gregarious, is funny and loves to talk. I love him for those qualities but I also love quiet and still. When he leaves, I clean the house top to bottom and know it will stay that way for 6 entire weeks. When he comes home, I am refreshed and welcome him with open arms. It’s all a balance, for sure!

    1. You’re right about that! Moderation in all things, including moderation! 🙂 I love the idea of having 6 weeks to yourself. I may have to find a way to carefully suggest it to my Tom. Glad you liked today’s message, Jan.

  2. That is absolutely priceless Katherine! Love your take on her “secret”!

    1. She was so adorable, Debbie. Even though this happened years ago, I can still remember how loudly she spoke because she couldn’t hear very well. It just added to her charm and the gravity of her secret. A fun memory, for sure. Wishing you a great week ahead.

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