This weekend we celebrated the life of Patricia Jennings Hitchcock (Molly’s grandmother). She was unique in many ways, but one phrase that stands out is that she never grew old. Even at 89 years old, she was a bundle of energy and enthusiasm for all to behold. Her eyes would always twinkle at the mention of hiking the trails, chopping wood, or sharing a cup of tea with friends.
Even her memorial service was unique and indicative of her. First, she planned it all in detail before her death. How many people take the time plan their own memorial service down to the readings and participants? Second, there were over 200 people present which is a testament to her gift of deeply connecting with those around her. Finally, it took place in her beloved Donald Park that she contributed her farmland to, and helped to build day-in and day-out to the very end.
During much reflection, I’ve tried to determine what it is that made her special and forever young. There are five traits that stand out to me as quintessentially Pat:
- Seek Out Adventure: When she was in her twenties she road her motorcycle across the US. In mid-life, she traveled to remote areas of Nepal to chronicle the people that lived there. She visited New Zealand and at 87 she rode on horseback many miles around her farm. She was always ready for the next adventure and truly focused on experiences over stuff in her life.
- Find a Cause: The last quarter century of her life was devoted to building a park and restoring the natural prairie of Wisconsin. She coordinated volunteers every Tuesday and threw herself into park chores. I feel like this was one of the secrets to her long health. She had a reason to stay around to make sure that the natural beauty of her land was preserved.
- Grow from Tragedy: Two of her children died tragically and rather than being broken for the rest of her life, she grew from those experiences and become a more open, empathetic and caring person.
- Love People: Her hospitality was unparalleled. You knew that if you stopped by her farm, she *would* be glad to see you and have a cup of tea waiting. She loved people and had a gift of making everyone feel special.
- Never Stop Learning: She was a voracious reader her entire life and loved talking about the latest book she was reading. She was a continuous seeker of the truth in religious matters and all of life. At about age 80, she saw my college biology book and asked if she could borrow it to study
If we could only emulate some of these in our lives perhaps we can carry on a bit of her legacy and stay forever young ourselves. So long Granny Pat and Godspeed! Thanks for everything you taught us…
If you seek his memorial, look around you.
-Epitaph for Christopher Wren (architect of St Paul’s Cathedral)