Of Life and Lens

by Lauri Gwilt
April 28, 2017
Of Life and Lens

He’s 98½ years old, and just walked in the door for lunch after mowing his neighbour’s lawn. His neighbour is 75. A moment later his 90-year-old bride of 68 years opens the oven door, releasing the soul-filling aroma of freshly baked buns into the room. She places them next to the cinnamon buns she baked earlier this morning, right beside the mouth-watering lemon squares she baked yesterday.

As we sit down for lunch, it occurs to me that there’s so much more to sharing a meal with these two than just having a full plate and a full tummy. Those who are fortunate enough to spend time with Nanny and Papa and hear their stories, also come away with a full heart, let alone a full cup.

Nanny and Papa, the grandparents of a dear friend, have almost 100 years of captivating stories, respectively. Stories from what it was like to grow up on the remote, central coast of British Columbia, to many other stories of how they navigated their way through the last century. Stories of the telephone, cars, refrigeration, television and the internet coming into their daily lives. Stories of blessings and hardship, of choices and change. Stories of people and places, of adventure and lessons learned. Some of their stories are so darn funny you can’t help but cry with laughter. Other stories are so darn heavy you can’t help but wonder if you would have the same fortitude, given the same circumstances.

Both grew up in poor families, Papa’s in particular. Papa’s father was a Prospector, which meant he was away from his wife and seven children for long periods of time. Often breakfast was a paste of flour and water, the leftovers fried in ooligan grease for supper. He had exactly one pair of shoes that were saved for Sundays, and it was his job in the family to find creative ways of getting more credit at the store so the family could buy food.  The early years were hard. And yet, every once in a while much needed help would come from the most unlikely of sources, like the day the dog stole a ham that fed the family for a week.

None of us are immune to difficulty and hardship, we’re all given our share of these chapters in our story, to varying degrees. Hardship wasn’t reserved for the early part of Nanny and Papa’s stories, the later years offered all sorts of character building opportunities, to say the least.  My fascination with how we tell our life stories seems to be growing by the minute, and listening to how Nanny and Papa tell theirs affirms, yet again, the power of choice with respect to how we interpret and tell ours – particularly the tough stuff. We have the choice to let those events define us and keep us small, or allow them to shape us in ways that strengthen us for the better. Nanny and Papa have spent a lifetime in lockstep with each other in choosing the latter.

They live in a profound state of gratitude and appreciation – for every moment, morsel and memory. They’ve gently and decidedly mined the goodness out of each story of challenge and hardship, and share those stories with pride, gratitude, and even humour. Not a thing not a blessed thing - is taken for granted - particularly when it comes to people.

To Nanny and Papa there are very few things more important than the well-being of family, and to be of service to others. Visitors are greeted with the kind of joy that the rest of the world reserves for Ed McMann holding a Sweepstakes cheque under his arm. And even as they tip-toe toward Centenarian status, and require a little help with some of life’s details themselves, their primary focus and attention is still centered on what they can do for others. No sooner does Nanny pull baking out of the oven, when Papa cuts it in half and heads to any number of neighbours with a warm, delicious offering.

While they may seem like unreal characters only Hollywood could imagine, I assure you, these two are the essence of what choosing a life and lens of celebration can be. I aspire to see the world in the ways that they do, with a strong, healthy sense of purpose, and gratitude.

This is what 98 and 90 can look like…particularly when celebrating what’s right moves beyond being a great idea, and becomes a way of living.   

 

 

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I am both honoured and blessed to have Jean and Burg as my aunt and uncle. Jean (Nanny) is my dad's youngest sister. They are a true inspiration and I love them both very much.

Another heartwarming blog with an endearing life-lesson, Lauri. These two people have far more to celebrate than there longevity. The strength of their character and the love for their family, community and world is to be applauded and cherished. I am so glad that they have this blog as a written testament of their life. I hope that the family is also engaging in other legacy writing in order to preserve all of the wonderful stories that should be kept for future generations. When I visited my aging parents once in Florida, their friend set up a video camera and recorded me asking my parents things about their history/past. I treasure that, not only for the information, but also for the visual remembrance of my parents! Thanks for reminding me to start writing down my own "stores" - what I want remembered (and some that perhaps I don't, but should be)!! And, as much as I don't like to get in front of a camera, a video might be in order also!!

I am very fortunate to be able to call Jean & Burgess my Aunt and Uncle. My Auntie Jean was my Mothers younger sister. Our home was in Prince Rupert, B.C. That was where I met them. I was born there as was my Auntie Jean. Even though many miles have separated us through the years, I have always had a great love and respect for them. Cara, their Granddaughter, is kind enough to keep me informed about how they are doing and what they are doing. I love them with all of my heart.

<3

Me again

Give Jean and Berg a hug from me please..

Wonderful couple. Had great visits many times. Love them both.

Super story by super humans.

There are very few things much more gratifying, much ore meaningful than helping others who don't have enough food. Very often, those who can least afford to give, give the most. These two, Nanny and Papa, must be very special.
Vinnie Oakes
Food Bank of Northern Nevada

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