My goal is to die young….as late as possible

I have been watching the services honoring President George H.W. Bush this week, and have been moved by the services and honorariums.

It struck me that President George H.W. Bush, who passed away at the age of 94, really understood that as we age, we can continue to grow and learn and strive to be the very best versions of ourselves.

The 41st President once told his granddaughter, journalist Jenna Bush Hager, “aging’s alright…better than the alternative: not being here.”   He felt it was more important to live every day to the fullest, to do the best you can with the information you have, and to take leaps of faith.

Sometimes, those leaps were literal! President Bush made eight skydives in his life, including jumps on his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. Those close to him say they expect that he would have jumped for his 95th, too.

Here are some beautiful words I heard from those who loved him, validating that George H.W. Bush accomplished his goal to live a long life and die young!

Memorial from President George W. Bush:

  • “I once heard it said that the idea is to die young as late as possible. … One reason Dad knew how to die young is that he almost did it twice. When he was a teenager a staph infection almost took his life. A few years later, he was alone in the Pacific on a life raft, praying that his rescuers would find him before the enemy did. God answered those prayers — it turned out he had other plans for George H.W. Bush.”
  • “In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal James A. Baker smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently, it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton’s.”
  • “He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted, and he played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf — he was a good golfer. Well, here’s my conclusion: He played fast so he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expand his enormous energy, to live it all. He was born with just two settings: Full-throttle, then sleep.”

Memorial from Historian Jon Meacham:

  • As vice president, Bush once visited a children’s leukemia ward in Kraków. Thirty-five years before, he and Barbara had lost a daughter, Robin, to the disease. In Kraków, a small boy wanted to greet the American vice president. Learning that the child was sick with cancer that had taken Robin, Bush began to cry.”
  • “To his diary later that day, the vice president said this: ‘My eyes flooded with tears, and behind me was a bank of television cameras. And I thought I can’t turn around. I can’t dissolve because of personal tragedy in the face of the nurses that give of themselves every day. So I stood there looking at this little guy, tears running down my cheek, hoping he wouldn’t see. But if he did, hoping he’d feel that I loved him.'”

Memorial from Senator Alan Simpson:

  • “The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush, one of nature’s noblemen. … Loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyal to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends. None of us were ready for this day.”

Guided by Goodness, loyalty Faith and Fun

As I heard these memorials and others, I felt that our 41st president embodies our own Compass mission/values statement –  We strive to be  Guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.

Thank you Mr.President for being a good role model for us and for future generations to come.  You are a True North Leader and an example of True North Elderhood.


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

Wisdom from Annie – Give life a second chance

Annie G lives at Peachtree Village Retirement Community in Roswell New Mexico and is our guest author today.

Annie teaches us that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places.  Annie is a beautiful woman who has experienced trials, struggles, loss and has found her way out of the depths.  It’s about overcoming obstacles; that’s the key to happiness.

Giving Life A Second Chance: Believing In Yourself And The Power Of Love – Annie G.

I often think about how I got to where I am today and how somehow everything that has happened, big or small in my lifetime has made me a better, happier, wiser and stronger person.

Now, this is coming from someone who’s lost a parent, struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts among a boatload full of other things. If you have ever heard the saying, “you can learn and grow from every experience,” I want you to know that this is indeed true.

When I look back to some of the hardest moments of my life, I can tell you that honestly each of these experiences has taught me some of the most important things you’ll ever learn:

  • Love can heal.
  • There are good people out there if you allow them in.
  • Memories of loved ones live on forever.
  • You cannot love anyone until you love yourself.
  • You alone are good enough.
  • Words can kill.
  • Friendship is sometimes bitter sweet.
  • You cannot please everyone.
  • And most of all, never settle or give up because life is a journey full of roadblocks and failures but the best comes when you refuse to let one closed door break you down and acknowledge that there is a purpose for everything.

When people ask my age, I say, “I’m 14 turning 15 in September!”

Whenever I tell people my story, they often ask me “Why are you so resilient? How can you be so strong?  What makes you so positive?” I usually laugh or smile in response. The truth is sometimes you don’t have a choice.

When you fall into really bad situations, you cannot waste a second feeling sorry for yourself. You have to survive, build a wall around yourself and push on.

Whenever people ask me, “How did you get through losing your dad at such a young age?” I always say “Sometimes you don’t get through it.” There were so many days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I was a mess always breaking down and other times I felt nothing at all. Grief spiraled me into so many different directions. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t living, just floating around like a lifeless fish.

For me, I found peace and happiness through the kind hearts of friends, teachers, counselors and other who kept me going.

Even though I still struggle with grief and many insecurities, I find so much joy in knowing that I have a purpose. I am meant to do amazing things, not just because that’s what my dad wanted, but because I know that I am good enough.

I want anyone out there who may be at a bad point in their lives or have been through similar experiences to know that life isn’t all a dark cloud.

There is light at the end of every tunnel and sometimes the rainbow you were looking for was right in front of you all along. Never ever give up on yourself because I promise you that there are people out there who care.

You are meant to be who you are. So never give up on your dreams or your goals.

Picture this – all of the hard stuff you’ve gone through is not what powers the stove. They are rather minor parts of the elements on the stove top that allow you to run smoothly. Their experiences do not define or dictate who you are. Never forget your past or where you came from but use them as motivation to be a better person.


Thanks to the Author:

We are grateful for the wisdom of Annie and the gift of her life-lessons.

In ancient times, the Elders carried the wisdom of the tribe. In today’s world that tribe is fractured and dispersed, as families are more transitional, and may not have elders to call upon.  The world needs the wisdom of our elders more than ever!

I have discovered a nonprofit organization named ElderWisdomCircle™ that was made possible in part through a generous grant from Google.

Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

The Elder Wisdom Circle is an online inter-generational program pairing advice seekers with a network of seniors (“Elders”) who provide free and confidential advice on a broad range of topics.  Their mission is:

  • Provide an opportunity for all seniors to utilize their life experience and wisdom to help others.
  • Offer thoughtful and helpful advice to younger generations.
  • Elevate the value and worth of our senior community.

I encourage you to ask advice of the elders around you. If you work in senior housing, you have a lot of opportunities to learn. Or you may meet an elder at the supermarket or in your church. Most are willing to support your growth.  You may be surprised to learn that elders are still growing, and learning and evolving…just as we all are!

If you are an elder, I invite you to share your wisdom as a True North Elder in this forum as well.   You may contact me by email to submit a story.