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Monday, April 21, 2014

Lessons Learned from Three Sisters over 100

By now perhaps you have seen the report in People magazine or elsewhere about the reunion of the three sisters over 100 years old. For those who have not, here is the story.  Rose Shloss, who is 101, lives  at Brookdale's Waterside assisted living and independent living community  in Sarasota, Florida.  During a recent conversation with the Resident Programs Director, Kristen Sidwell, and the Executive Director Steve Strumpf, Rose revealed that she has two sisters, Ruth Branum, 104 and Rubye Cox, 110 who she had not seen for 10 years. The team at Waterside sprang into action and helped Rose submit a desire to reunite with her sisters to Wish of a Lifetime®, with whom Brookdale has a partnership.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

From left: Front row: Betty Gilberts (daughter of Rubye), Rubye Cox 110 years old, Rose Shloss 101 years old. Back row: Ruth Branum 104 years old, Ellie Miller (daughter of Ruth), Janet Shloss (daughter of Rose)

Through laudable teamwork efforts on the part of the Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale teams, on April 10, which happens to be National Siblings Day, the three sisters, one from Florida, one from Oklahoma, were reunited at the Rhode Island nursing center where big sister Rubye resides.  I had the distinct honor and privilege to be present for this remarkable occasion.  The sisters and their families were overjoyed to be together, and there was a sense that we were witnessing something remarkable. It is an experience I will never forget.

Of course many people wanted to know what the sisters did to live so long.  All they really did was live their lives the best they could, so one can only guess at what things may have contributed to their longevity.   What I can tell you is what I learned by observing the three women and their family during those few days.  At the risk of sounding like a kitschy plaque in a gift shop, I can sum it up with three words:  Faith.  Family.  Friends.

From the moment I met the sisters and their family members, their strong faith was evident. No preaching, just a word here or there, a prayer before our flight and before the family gathering, and a general sense of gratitude.

Stronger still were the tangible family bonds.  As film from past family reunions looped on the TV screen, stories were overheard from the various clusters of folks gathered throughout the room. The three sisters were intertwined into all of the tales -their wit and wisdom emanating from the past recollections and the present moment.

Most extraordinary to behold was the way the three sisters were cared for, by everyone, and especially their children, with tender loving attention.  The sisters each have a daughter who has sacrificed and rearranged her life in order to do whatever necessary for their beloved mother.   Rubye’s daughter, Betty, 83 years old and herself a great grandmother, walks the 6 blocks to her mother’s community twice a day to assist her with lunch and dinner.  Ruth lives with her daughter, Ellie, who also cares for a husband who has some health challenges.  Rose’s daughter, Janet, has a very demanding career in Boston, but has taken an apartment in Florida near her mother to provide support and companionship-and commutes back and forth.  This care flows effortlessly and naturally out of the love that these three centenarians have nurtured throughout their lives.

Also flowing naturally from these women and through the entire family was an ease of friendship. Within hours of knowing this clan I was declared to be “part of the family”.   And so I am.  On the second day of the trip I met Ruth at breakfast and she said “Carol, I missed you! I feel like I have new friend.” And then she gave me the pearl of wisdom that I will always remember: “There is always room in your heart to love a new friend.”  What more can I say?
Are these the secrets to longevity? Maybe, but no doubt they are wonderful examples of lives well lived; and I am grateful to have crossed their paths and soaked in their wisdom.

Be Well on Purpose!


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