LOVE, BE LOVED, TRUST IN GOD, SING.
My daughter, Janice called my attention to an article about a woman who is 111 years old! Janice remaked, "mother I can envision and hope you will still be living at that age." Well, like Mrs Williams, "I love, am loved, trust in God and sing." But i do not want, nor expect to live to be a centenarian and certainly not a "supercentenarian," (a person who survived beyond her 110 th birthday.)
Lera Williams was born the year the century turned. On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, Lera celebrated her 111th birthday. She married at 18 and survived the Great Flu that very same year.
She had eight children, two who died before her, which is the single worst thing that could happen to you, she says.
Mrs. Williams still remembers her grandparents like it was yesterday. She remembers riding sidesaddle on a horse and paddling a skiff across the Cumberland River when someone put her in the boat and told her to paddle. She never had a desire to learn to drive a car.
Lera remembers her daddy reading the Bible every morning and every night. When asked about life, she says "life is a wonder." When asked about time, she says it sure "flies fast."
According to the Gerontology Research Group, an international body that deals in longevity research, Williams is Kentucky's oldest and is probably the 64th oldest person living on the planet. She is someone they call a "supercentenarian," a person who has survived beyond her 110th birthday.
The frail, smiling woman doesn't seem too impressed herself, calling it a "normal life." She married C.M. Williams in 1918, but he wasn't the first man she had an eye on. She says there were others who "made me giggle." C.M. and Lera lived in his parents' house, because that was what everybody did back then.
All her children, seven girls and one boy, were born with the help of a midwife. She believes in God with her whole heart. Her children knew they were loved, just as she knew she was loved by her parents.
Her husband died in 1961. They had been married for 43 years. These days, Lera lives at home, a block away from Campbellsville University. Her daughters take turns caring for her, each living a month at the house. "She's been a wonderful mama," says Anna, 78, who makes sure Lera eats well and has her crochet near at hand. Lera says it helps that she is not afraid of much either. Except snakes.
When terrible things happened — and they did — you had to accept them. Anna reminds her of the time when Lera was a young mother, and a warm day in January brought a tornado ripping through their home, causing it to collapse. Baby Nellie Catherine was in a bed that was crushed; another small child was in a bed that was not.
Her youngest daughter, Betty, is 68. Her eldest, Eloise is 91. Asked if she still offers motherly advice to Eloise, Lera says, "I tell her what I think."
Lera's white hair frames her face of nearly flawless skin. She says she can't hear so well anymore. She hasn't left the house in 14 years when she broke her hip, and because the only medicine she needs now is a little something for her heart and a little something for blood pressure and her vitamins, it was the last time she saw a doctor.
"I never was one to go to the doctor," says the little woman in the big chair, surrounded by pictures of her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and her great-great-grandchildren.
In a conversation lull or, says Anna, very early in the morning when she is not certain it is time to wake up yet, her mother will sing old Methodist hymns like "Oh, how I love Jesus," singing in a soft lilt.
Lera Williams does not fear death. "I look forward to seeing all these people who have gone before me," she says, quietly but sure. She was looking forward to the company that came on Wednesday to share her 111 birthday cake and punch. "Please come back tomorrow," she says, by way of goodbye.
If you want to know a secret to long life, Lera Williams says, this is all she can offer: Love. Be loved. Trust in God. And sing!