My Grandma Ada lived for 100 years and five days. The most important lesson she taught me was the value of a goal and a purpose.
Technically speaking, Ada was my step-grandmother. My maternal grandmother (Nonna) passed away suddenly in her 70s, and my grandfather (Nonno) briefly courted and then married Ada.
Ada was a sweet woman, a widow who was never blessed with children. The wedding was a casual affair. It was heartwarming to see two people in their 70s rediscover new love.
Nonno died less than three weeks into their marriage. He decided to stop taking his heart medication because “he felt great.”
I spent a few weeks with Ada to help her get over the shock and arrange her life back into widowhood.
After Nonno’s death, my family adopted Ada as our grandmother, and she enjoyed holidays and celebrations with us. In her 80s, she moved into a senior apartment complex to be near her brother and his wife. In her late 90s, after her brother passed away, she moved to a nursing home.
Ada continued to thrive because she had a goal. She wanted to live to be 100. It was all she ever talked about since she was 80 years old.
At 99½, I began to make arrangements for Ada’s 100th birthday by contacting the local paper to see if they might be interested in doing a story on her centennial celebration. Ten years ago living to be 100 was somewhat newsworthy. They said yes, and we planned an interview with Ada the day of her actual birthday.
My sisters and cousin and their children and I planned to visit that day too. We made arrangements to have a Presidential White House Greeting sent. We contacted the “Today” show to request Willard Scott mark this milestone on air. We ordered balloons and cake.
A month before the celebration I spoke to Ada and the nursing home staff to make sure she was up for the festivities and talking to a newspaper reporter. Yes, they both told me: “Plan on the party. Ada is doing well and (is) very excited to turn 100.”
I flew across the country and arrived in town a day early and immediately went to visit Ada. I was stunned by what I saw.
Ada was in a deep sleep and almost impossible to arouse. For a brief moment she acknowledged me by opening her eyes; then she closed them and became unresponsive. It seems that a few days earlier Ada had suddenly begun the process of leaving this earth.
I met the newspaper reporter the next day with the sad news. She still wanted to do the story but now I would need to answer the questions she had ready for Ada. I called my sisters and cousin and we decided to go forward with our celebration.
As Ada lay in her bed, her breath slow and shallow, we celebrated around her. We read her the Presidential Greeting; we described the gifts and read the cards we brought.
We expressed our love, said our goodbyes and through our tears told her it was OK to let go, because she had achieved her goal. She was 100 years old today. Five days later my mother called to tell me Ada had passed.
Childless and widowed twice, for many years the only surviving member of her siblings, some might say Ada had little to look forward to as she aged. But Ada set a goal for herself and that is what kept her alive.
According to research, feeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age.
Ralph Buchanan said, “When you walk in purpose, you collide with destiny.”
Ada lived fully up until her last few days and fulfilled her destiny.