Jared Felkins Column: Discovery of secret to growing older can change lives

“Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries.”
Mar 2, 2013

“Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries.”
— Bill Cosby

On Monday, I will celebrate yet another birthday. And yes, celebrate is just the right verb. There’s a secret to that.

During the past couple of weeks, we took on the responsibility of reporting the deaths of some pretty touching community members.

We told of Dr. James Bradshaw, who spent the majority of his life in Lebanon delivering babies, fixing ailments and generally contributing to the overall health of our community.

And when he wasn’t treating the sick or giving shots, he was injecting the business community with his know-how whether as a founder of Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, Inc., or an organizer of First Freedom Bank.

“I came to town about a year before he did,” said longtime associate Dr. Morris Ferguson. “We were never partners, but we always traded out in our practices. When I was out, he worked for me, and I did the same thing for him.

“He was a good friend and a very good associate. He was a fine doctor as well. We practiced together for about 30 years. Our practices were very similar in what we did. He was always a very pleasant man. He was always very kind to his patients and mine as well. I’ve never heard of anyone who didn’t like Jim Bradshaw.”

Earlier this week, Ferguson brought an old photo illustrating many of the medical leaders of the past at McFarland Hospital. It’s like stepping back in time to get a glimpse of the pioneers that helped shape our community.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Bradshaw, but it was an honor to share his story. His death afforded me the chance to meet Ferguson, however, and I look forward to playing a round of golf with the retired doctor.

“Golf is like a lot of other things in life,” Ferguson told our newsroom. “You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.”

If anything, there’s some wisdom there to give us all reason not to be afraid of growing older.

Yet another significant community member’s death was reported this week among the pages of The Democrat. Likely the oldest person in Wilson County, Sadie Cloyd, died Feb. 22 at 107 years old.

“When she did quit driving [at about 103 years old], she made it known that it was her decision; nobody made her quit driving,” said Teresa Hightower, events coordinator at the senior center. “She was an amazing little lady. She was very independent, very strong-willed – she just loved life.”

Always on the go, Cloyd spent nearly every day at the senior center, even volunteering when she was able. In fact, she was a nominee for the Catherine Strobel Volunteer Award in Nashville.

“This lady never stayed home; she was on the go all the time,” said Cloyd’s niece, Paula Henley.

So there’s yet another tip for anyone who dreads growing older, just stay one step ahead of it.

Sure, we deal with obituaries on a daily basis. We treat each with respect, dignity and give them the attention they deserve. Personally, growing old and death go hand in hand, which is why it’s so unsettling to read the obituary of a young person, especially a child. Regardless of age, funerals should be celebrations of life, and everyone should be proud to have known the guest of honor.

On Monday, I will turn 37 years old. And while many may think that’s not old, consider I feel younger today than I did when I was 35 or even 30. It might be due to the 40 or so pounds I’ve dropped over the past two years. It might be my three children who keep me on the go and on my toes quite constantly.

It’s easy to see how death might make one cynical about growing older; we’re exposed to it every day. Rather, it’s the lives these people lived – their experiences, accomplishments and triumphs – that gives me reason to celebrate all that’s in store for me during this second half of life.   

So I will celebrate each day until it’s time for me to go. And then the celebration can really begin. That might be the best kept secret yet.


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