Ten days ago, my Grandma passed away. At 97, she was more progressive than most people I know today. And physically healthier than many, working as a nurse’s aide until she was 80, lifting and caring for people 20 years younger than her.
My Grandma was a pioneer. Especially in nutrition. Sometime in the 1940s she met a priest who told her that we had control over our health. And that it started with food. Real food that comes from socially responsible soil and land, like how Jesus, a kindred “radical”, would have honored God’s land. While packaged food wasn’t the norm it is today, it was trendy. But my Grandma was very classy, mixed with a healthy dose of curiosity.
Upon doing her own research into nutrition, she moved her family onto an “organic” farm (that designation unnecessary at the time) to align her love of family and the Earth with her actions. She was sprouting wheat grass before John Mackey, the Whole Foods founder, was even alive.
The last conversation I had with her was perfect, especially since I didn’t know it would be my last. I had been reflecting on her incredible life and how she changed the course of her family’s history in so many ways. “Well, this was great for my ego,” she said. We laughed. Then she told me my business would do well because “Young people today get it. It is the right time.” She continued, “I want to see you do well because really, I started the whole thing.”
That conversation was very classic Grandma. She was humble enough to ask the right questions and had the chutzpah to live those questions and enjoy the rewards of a curious life lived with holistic love.
I’d love to pass along some of the nutritional advice my Grandma taught me over the 36 nourishing years I had with her:
1. Start small. Growing up, I did not like healthy food. Or so I thought. Yet being our primary caretaker when my parents were at work, she would cut up fresh cucumbers and peppers for when I came home from school. She’d tell me, just finish this little bit. And I did. And while it took me some time to return to my roots, even my unhealthiest days always included more veggies and healthier habits than my peers.
2. Fenugreek tea with lemon and honey for colds. It was a remedy from “the old country” (Slovenia) where her parents immigrated from. To this day, if I do get a cold, I drink this and the congestion breaks up like magic. Many of my clients have found equal relief.
3. Fresh is always best. We always had fresh orange juice that she personally squeezed! Complete with the pulp. She’d make it especially when we were sick for all the Vitamin C. I can still feel my sore throat tingle with all the love in that glass. If you focus on fresh, nutrition becomes very simple. And filled with love.
The next two tips are more philosophical in nature:
4. “If you want the old people to buy organic, don’t call it organic. Tell them they should buy the “produce that isn’t sprayed with chemicals.”
She told me this when she was in her 90s and had discovered some persuasion tricks so her neighbors in her retirement community would be healthier.
My Grandma was optimistic people could change, no matter what their age or how many mistakes they had made. She cared enough about people to learn to meet them where they are. Now. And love them at exactly that spot. Decades later, research has proven that self-compassion is the heart and soul of lasting change. Our family was lucky to be nurtured in this kind of environment. With a sense of compassion in your bones, it feels safer to take chances.
5. “Can you believe I bought the whole thing (Catholicism)? Hook, line and sinker!” She said this to me during one of my college breaks, when she was in her 80s and had been reading about the business side of the Catholic church.
My Grandma’s husband died very young, when she had the majority of her nine kids still at home (clearly when she was into something, she was all in!). After her husband’s death, her belief in Catholicism faded. But she didn’t turn to cynicism. Rather, she remained curious. While many people of her age or after loss cling to the safety of absolutes, my Grandma always pondered the big, hard, and deep questions. We would frequently discuss life after death and what this Earth school is all about. And while we never arrived at any definitive answers beyond maybe a universal mind, that wasn’t the point.
Rather, she taught me the value in being fierce with my questions, even when it’s scary. To seek the truth, because the true meaning of life was about love, according to her. And the truth, if you knew where and how to look, would always reveal that. Her progressive nature and belief in nutrition was just the medium of that message.
Learning to ask the right questions and then being able to live them has ended up being the healthiest habit she ever passed along. Her Big Love of all of life facilitated me being able to be this way.
And she gave all nine of her children, 28 grandchildren, 31 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren enough of that Big Love to last each of us a lifetime as long and as rich as hers.
So while my Grandma did start me on this path, I’d love if you’d continue on with me. Today, ask yourself a healthy question and then go live that possibility. And see if you don’t too, fall more in love with all of life.