My grandparents were farmers. My maternal grandfather was a tenant farmer and my paternal grandparents farmed their own land. That work ethic of working long hours most days of the week was modeled and instilled into me by my own parents, who were simple, decent and hardworking. When I met my college roommate’s parents, the Haislips, I was intrigued by their intellect and curiosity. College educated and inquisitive folk, they loved the opera, literature, and Mr. Haislip, a manly man, did needlepoint. They were gracious southerners who volunteered in their church and community and lived in a way I had never witnessed personally.
Recently, Mr. Haislip passed away and I was privileged to attend his memorial. He outlived his beloved wife, Mary Ruth, by decades and he never remarried. Rather than sink into despair about his seismic loss, I learned that Mr. H had lived out his life in a most remarkable way. After age 70, he moved to his home town in eastern North Carolina to be close to his sister and cousins. He remodeled an old house that his family said should have been condemned, took up acting for the first time in his entire adult life and had several leading roles in the community theater. He also became very involved in his church and in the community and became a gourmet cook, giving huge Christmas parties for the community at large in his remodeled home. When he passed away, he was in his 90’s. The church was packed full of friends and family who loved him and told stories about his engagement in the community and his social contributions. He remained socially connected and engaged until the last six months of his life.
Mr. Haislip inspires me because not only do I want to age well, but I continue to want to help bring well-being to the aging population. Mr. Haislip did not allow loneliness, boredom and helplessness to envelop him as he lived into the last quarter of his life. He saw the world as a place to be discovered and invented. He lived for the benefit of others. He was the guardian of his well-being and took action to free himself from the constricting mindset of what aging used to look like another generation ago. Mr. Haislip, I thank you, for not settling for the status quo. Your example propels me to also see possibilities in myself and in those I serve in my profession. I honor your example and am grateful I got to watch from a distance how to age and live well until the end.