There are some special people who have inspiring lives. When you see them, you smile. When you think of them, there’s usually a positive thought or memory. When you have a conversation with them, you are reminded of the simplicity and beauty in life. I’m grateful to have a person like this in my life, my great-aunt. My younger two kids and I visited her a week ago today. At just a couple years away from a century of life, she has a mindset, perspective, and life that I truly admire. She radiates gratitude and love to all around her, and has for as long as I can remember.

Whenever we visit, a few things stand out to me. These are things that I don’t find as typical in our day-to-day experiences out in the world. She turns off her television. She has never had a cell phone or any technology device, so those are never present. She greets us with a smile and looks us in the eyes as she says hello. She’s hard of hearing, but she does her best to listen intently. She always asks how we are doing and gives the kids hugs. We usually have to interrupt to ask how she’s doing because she’s so interested in asking questions to the people she’s with.

Today when I asked her how she was doing, she said how happy she is that she’s so old and that she’s doing so well. She is thankful for the nice place she has at her assisted living, and she is glad that her husband, who has been gone for over a decade, was able to live there too for several years. She comments each time about how kind the staff members are, and how hard they work to take care of her and her friends there. She usually mentions the food, and how it may not be exactly how she would cook it, but how thankful she is for the options for meals each day. She has a large window in her apartment. If it’s sunny, she comments on the beauty of the sunshine. If it’s raining, she makes sure you have an umbrella and coat, but tells the kids that the sun will be back again. If it’s snowing, well, you just shouldn’t come visit if weather is like that, but she will make sure you arrive home safely. She is always encouraging, no matter what is going on. My great-aunt and uncle never had children, but they are some of the most caring, kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. She told me how thankful she is for all the children, grandchildren, and great-grand children she has “adopted” since she could never have her own, and how full and happy her life is. All of my children have been drawn to her since they were born. They can sense her love and care in an instant. She is generous to everyone around her, and she never expects anything in return.

My great-aunt is a woman who finds the best in every person and in every situation. Has she had an easy life? No. I have yet to meet someone who has. Does she know how to approach many life situations, good or bad, with optimism and faith? Absolutely. She knows that every day is a gift, that life is precious, and she lives that way each day. I’m thankful that she is still here, and already has had such an influence on my tiny children. I will forever look up to her as she continues to quietly and simply teach so much by her life. Simple, grateful, and inspiring.