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A Testament to the Age of No Excuses

My dear grandmother passed away earlier this month at the age of 94.

What strikes me is not how she died, but how long she simply didn’t find the time to die.

My "grams" was the hard-working wife of a carpenter. Then she was the hard-working wife of a farmer. These were both the same man of course, which constitutes another testimony to her generation: “Do what needs doing.” When it doesn’t work you step back onto the ladder, pick up, move where you must, and do what you must to make your way.

Somewhere in there, she also managed to work a couple really hard and thankless jobs. Like the back-breaking, finger-numbing job at the poultry plant.

Surviving her husband by many years, she lived in her own home until her final days with some help from her loving family.

Two weeks before her passing, one of her grandsons called her up and said, “Grams, I am on the way over this weekend to clean your carpets.” When he arrived he found Grams had moved all the furniture out of the way so the space was ready to clean. Her 94-year-old 95-pound wisp of a body had done the work simply because it was second nature to her. “Do what needs doing.” Her entire life she did not take other people’s work for granted or ask them to do what she herself would not do. High blood pressure, arthritis and a prior broken hip held no sway over her thinking.

Life has needs. Needs require tasks. Tasks require doing. Such was her road.

When she visited me while in her 70’s, I’d find her up at 5 in the morning doing any dishes we might have left in the sink the night before. If there were none, she’d occasionally start washing the ones in the partially-filled dishwasher.

This was not a stout, physical woman. For decades she had not been robust. But her sheer drive would fool you about that every time.

If I left on a 15 minute errand, she’d sometimes ask to stay behind… because she secretly wanted to work in my garden or tinker with the landscaping in my yard.

Finally one day, I put aside my shame at being outworked by someone 50 years my senior. I asked, “Where do you find the energy to do all this? How can you manage it?”

She gently placed her hand on my cheek and simply said, “It’s how I can help.”

What a world we’d have if even half of us could find that clarity in our lives. Live life for the sake of living it, with no excuses. Live life with a clear view of how it helps others... precisely because it helps those we love.

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