"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased." (Proverbs 9:10-11, KJV)
In August 2013, I had the honor and privilege of celebrating my grandmother's 99th birthday with her. My mom used to always tell Granny that she would live to be 100, and that's something that I have never forgotten. Earlier this year, while visiting with Granny, I asked her, "Granny, do you remember Mom used to always tell you you would live to be a hundred?" "Yeah, Baby," she replied. "Do you WANT to live to be a hundred?" I continued. "Yeah!" she said enthusiastically. "Then I stand in agreement with you!" I said. And so I prayed and asked God to give my grandmother at least 100 years.
Until that point, I had never thought to ask her that question, though I've kept the desire to see her at a 100 years old in the forefront of my mind. Having been in a nursing home for so long, one of the hardest decisions I've ever been involved with making, it's wasn't easy knowing what Granny's wishes for longevity of life were. Her answer to that question was comforting because - and this may sound selfish - I can't imagine her not being here. She's been such an integral part of my life for so long, and I thank God constantly for allowing me to have Granny in my life. She is a joy, very strong-willed, and most importantly, she loves the Lord. I can't help but to smile every time I think about her, and about the love she constantly pours out.
Our visits together, about every other week or so, are generally very pleasant and routine. I say "generally" because in her old age, she does have her moments, but those are few and far between. She loves McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries, and I mix things up between that and some of her favorite home-cooked meals. It's heartwarming to see her eat, and if she's enjoying her meal she's happy, so much so that she hums and wiggles her toes as she eats.
For her birthday, I wanted to do something special, so I had cooked turkey necks (she taught me how years ago), "loaded" macaroni and cheese (in other words, with LOTS of cheese!), and as she had requested previously, steamed cabbage. I don't recall having ever cooked cabbage before, and though I'm not sure if what I did constitutes "steaming", but that part was definitely a leap of faith and God blessed it. For dessert, we had the world's best red velvet cake from Marita's Sweet Potato Pie Company. (If you're a local and haven't been there, I ABSOLUTELY recommend you try this bakery.)
The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:10 that "The days of our years are threescore years and ten", referring to the Israelites in the days of Moses being under a curse for rebellion, and as a result they were dying at seventy years of age, never having the chance of entering into the Promised Land. The lives of those individuals was cut short because they did not live according to the will of God.
Going back to my grandmother, I've been asked so many times by so many people, "What is your grandmother's secret to living so long?" I simply tell them, "The Grace of God," because I can't think of a better answer. Thinking back over Granny's life, I've noted how she has lived her life according to the Word of God. I'm not saying she's lived a perfect life, but I am saying she has done her best to set forth a Godly example for us to follow. Ephesians 6:2-3 instructs us to "Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." To this day, I can say that I have never heard my grandmother utter a word against her parents, even decades after their passing. Her mother died when Granny was about three years old, but her subsequent early years were spent with her father and siblings until he sent them to live with other family members (there were six of them including Granny, and raising six children as a single black man back then was undoubtedly difficult). My maternal great-grandfather was a preacher, and from what I understand, he was very strict. Still, Granny has never said a harsh word to me about him. Unfortunately, countless numbers of young people are dying prematurely every day because they dishonor their parents, breaking the very first Commandment.
I believe another reason God has given Granny so many years is because of her reverence for Him, as He tells us, "The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened." Not only has Granny reverenced and served the Lord at least all of my life, she has been a good example. Even in the nursing home, staff come to her for prayer, and during their Christian worship services (church groups come at least twice a week to lead services, but there are also groups for other faiths), she is called upon to sing, to minister in song. As a children, my brother and I spent many Friday nights at Granny's church while she rehearsed with the choir, then on the Sundays when we didn't go with my mom to church, we'd go with Granny. She never cursed around us, she didn't bring men into the house (just ask her and listen to her answer!), and she tried to live righteously before God and before us. My grandmother is and has been a praying woman of God, and to this day, before we part, she always says, "Baby, let me pray for you before you leave." I believe that Granny's prayers, the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous that availeth much (James 5:16), have continually reached the ears of God, and have helped carry me through myriad trials.
What is Granny's secret to living so long, to longevity of life? Only God can answer that question for sure. However, I believe that the answer is rooted in her deep and abiding love for the Savior, Jesus Christ. To them who have set their love upon God, He has promised, "With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation." (Psalm 91:16) One of the most beautiful scriptures the Lord showed me with regard to Granny is Psalm 92:12-15:
"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
God obviously isn't done with my grandmother yet. I am so looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday next year, and to giving thanks for another year of life for Granny Mary the Centenarian!