What it takes to be happy

Ever since last week’s column, I’ve been thinking of my wonderful “Coksi-Pepsi” Grandma and how happy she always seemed to be.
And how sad I felt when she passed away suddenly when I was only 17 years old.
As a naive teenager, I sometimes was almost jealous of Grandma because she seemed to have no problems and was so popular. I wanted to be like her!
The family adored her, and she was special friends with her neighbours and people of all ages.
At the time, little did I know the real story of Grandma’s difficult life. It turns out she grew up in a poor but happy family just across the road from her much-loved grandparents.
But her young life had been marred by tragedy.
Grandma had seven sisters. Then when she was a teenager, four of her young adult sisters died in a two-week period during the diphtheria epidemic of the late 1880s.
And her father had to bury his four daughters in unmarked graves in a nearby field without a funeral service (the community was fearful of the dreaded disease so there was no one at all to help).
Many years later, I asked my Aunt Naomi where Grandma’s sisters were buried. Sadly she said she didn’t know, then she took me close to where Grandma’s house had stood and pointed toward an open field.
On top of that early tragedy, Grandma’s parents died within three days of each other. In fact, her mother died during her father’s funeral.
Later, she was widowed at a young age.
No problems? Indeed! But I always experienced her as happy and fun-loving! What was her secret?
Somehow, Grandma always managed to focus on other people. And she lived in the present–never in the past.
The story of her death tells a lot about her life. She and her daughter, Naomi, had been grinding and canning horseradish all day; horseradish from Grandma’s garden.
Just before supper, Grandma took a jar of horseradish to a younger man down the street. While visiting there, she reached to her pocket for her nitroglycerin and, just like that, she was gone.
My five-year-old cousin, Ruthann, was waiting on Grandma’s back porch to tell her something. But Grandma never came back.
There is a lot to be learned about happiness from Grandma’s death–and life:
1). Up until her last moment, Grandma was focusing on other people–a man who loved horseradish but had no wife to make it for him.
2) She always was in touch with nature and loved growing things, like horseradish.
3). She was close to her family and related to people of all ages (from her five-year-old granddaughter to the neighbour down the street).
4). Grandma was a very thoughtful and religious person. Her faith was real, and she often expressed it by writing prayers and articles for church publications of the day.
5). But the most important thing of all was that Grandma lived in the present, never the past.
Always focused on the positives in life, she never let the tragedies of the past mar the present.
That was my happy “Coksi-Pepsi” Grandma. If you want to be happy, try following her path!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net

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