Violet Brown: A Foundation of Acceptance
Episode #5 of the course Secrets to a long life: A study of the world’s oldest people by John Robin
Welcome back to our course on long life!
Yesterday we met Emiliano Mercado del Toro and explored his longevity secret, by way of how developing an inner outlook of humor and fun can help combat the stress-inducing seriousness of life. And, of course, there’s that daily dose of funche to keep in mind as well.
Today, we are hopping a short distance over, from Puerto Rico to Jamaica, to learn about another of the longest-lived supercentenarians.
Violet Brown: 117 Years of Deep Acceptance
Jeanne Calment and Sarah Knauss are unique in that they are the only women whose ages have been verified at greater than 118. No women yet have died at age 118. Seven, however, have attained age 117, and Violet Brown was one of them.
When Violet was born, on March 10, 1900, Jamaica was still a colony of the British Empire. For Violet’s first year of life, she was a subject of Queen Victoria. She lived to see four kings and finally, a new queen, our Elizabeth II of today. Finally, when she was 67, she saw Jamaica gain independence.
But even then, she still had 50 more meaningful years ahead of her.
She taught music and was her church’s organist for 80 years. She worked as record-keeper at the local cemetery until well after 100. When her son, Harland, died at age 97, he set a new world record—the oldest person to die with a living parent. This happened in the spring of 2017, and though Violet had just turned 117, she would go on to live another few months until her death in September.
In the last years of her life, Violet was known with warm affection in her family and local community as Aunt V. She was still physically and mentally sharp. Her death on September 15, 2017, received condolences from Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.
Violet’s Longevity Lesson
Violet’s faith, and investment in her church community, accounted for a great deal of her happiness. “I love the Church,” she told her local paper, The Jamaica Observer. When asked the secret to her long life, she credited following the wisdom of the Bible—specifically, the book of Exodus, chapter 20, verse 12:
“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
Regarding what she thought of her gift of longevity, her reply was simply, “This is what God has given me, so I have to take it.”
You’ll notice, above all, her story radiates acceptance and gratitude. Though her life was not stress-free, she had a firm foundation of faith that fostered the deep acceptance of whatever life had in store for her. In terms of stress-management, this acceptance is a huge asset to reduce incessant worry, and no doubt, this helped her unlock her full potential.
We have talked about stress and its negative effects, but now we can turn to its opposite: relaxation.
When you work on being more accepting, this helps activate your body’s natural relaxation mechanisms, by way of the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is at work when we are in a relaxed state, and helps our body repair, recover, and release toxins. The more you can keep this system activated, the more you can optimize your body’s potential to fight off infection, disease, and degeneration.
You can do a lot to try and relax, with activities such as simple breathing meditation during a moment of stress, but Violet’s story pushes us a bit deeper, toward a deeper, more enduring kind of relaxation that comes from a foundation of acceptance.
There are many ways to work on being more accepting, but it’s worth touching on the question of faith itself since this was an integral part of Violet’s deep acceptance.
This faith doesn’t have to be a specific religion, nor even does it have to be overtly spiritual. It simply has to be your own unique way of resolving worries about death, your life as a whole, your purpose, your belonging, and other similar worries related to being here human, and wanting your life to have meaning.
For many, a faith helps, because it has structure and you can participate with other members of that faith community. For myself, I have found daily prayer and meditation, built around my journaling practice, to suffice, though admittedly, I am quite drawn to Tibetan Buddhism.
This is a very deep topic, and I could write a whole course on it! Suffice it to say, I recommend whatever you pursue feels natural and meaningful to you. Ultimately, you should find it deepens your sense of general relaxation. Like Violet, discover how to say your own form of, “This is what God has given me,” and live that today, and every tomorrow, ahead of you.
You will be on to what may be many years of a meaningful life, rooted in acceptance.
Stay tuned for our next lesson, where we will meet yet another supercentenarian to learn more about the secrets to long life!
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