Life Lessons From A Centenarian

It is a joy to honor the life of Hyacinth Juanita Helms Jenkins, my beloved Gran. Born February 21, 1919, her status as a centenarian is one that few will ever attain. With each passing year, I am more keenly aware of just how influential she has been in shaping the woman I am today. Many of my earliest memories are times I spent with her. Gran’s stories have always been peppered with humor and positivity. Whether talking on the front porch with a mason jar of lightning bugs between us or at the formica top kitchen table eating bowls of blackberry dumplings, I hung on to her every word. Without even realizing it, I was learning how to navigate life.

Except for the time (very) early in the morning she spent alone with her well-worn Bible, cup of coffee, and “piece of quiet,” she was up and moving. As a child, I did not comprehend why she was up “before the rooster crows” when she could have slept in a little longer. I now understand. Gran knew the key to beginning each day with an extra measure of joy and contentment was found in an active prayer life and growing her faith through God’s Word. I have followed her lead, rising early to enjoy my morning brew and ready my spirit for whatever the day holds.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. ~Psalm 119:105

Her hands have always been busy doing for others and making the world a better place. I was (and still am) in awe of the magic she could work with her hands. Although her factory sewing skills were limited to stitching up the toes and heels of nylon stockings, at home there were no limitations on what she created. Gorgeous dresses, ice skating outfits, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, and even a wedding gown with over 2000 hand sewn pearls were my favorites (yes, I still have the gown). Very recently, as a result of failing eyesight, she retired her sewing machine, and…picked up her crochet hook. Today, she is known at Mallard Ridge as the Teddy Bear Lady. To date, she has made and given away over 150 teddy bears. As she says, “There is nothing better than doing a little something to make others smile.” Most recently, those heart-warming smiles came from twenty-five children at the Ronald McDonald House.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. ~Galatians 6:10

My Gran has positively impacted lives near and far across the past 100 years, but perhaps none more profoundly than the lives of her family.


Larry (oldest son)

  • Make do with what you’ve got
  • When you go out, always wear clean underwear
  • Never, ever eat yellow snow

Carole (Larry’s wife)

  • It is what it is, so just get on with it
  • If you feel like having a good cry, go ahead, and then set your mind on something else.
  • Always forgive faults, both big and small.
  • There will be bumps in the road, but beware of the potholes

Rick (youngest son)

  • If you don’t tell them, they’ll never know
  • When making gravy, you can get by with a can of mushroom soup
  • If the milk separates, you know it is powdered milk

Nancy (daughter-in-law; Rick’s wife)

  • Don’t drop the dumplings until the broth is at a rolling boil
  • If you haven’t done it right the first time, rip it out and do it over until you get it right
  • Don’t make waves

Debbie (oldest granddaughter)

  • The most important things in life are not things
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • The simplest things in life are best shared with the ones you love
  • If you look for the good in every person, you will find it

Mark (Debbie’s husband)

  • Always use White Lily flour to make biscuits

Elizabeth (oldest great granddaughter; Debbie’s daughter)

  • Work hard for your marriage, your family, and your paycheck
  • Take good care of your things no matter their cost
  • Follow through with what you say you will do
  • Learn to hold your tongue

Kim (youngest granddaughter)

  • You don’t have to have much to be happy
  • Always pack a goodie bag
  • Even a pig with lipstick looks pretty good

Ru (Kim’s husband)

  • Kim’s a keeper

Listen to advice…and you will be counted among the wise. ~Proverbs 19:20


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