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Helen Cannan Graves, 102

Buncombe County, North Carolina

“Look to nature for rejuvenation of your spirit”

How I have overcome personal setbacks

…My mother died when I was only twelve. My sister Mildred’s appendix burst a few years later, and after a year of futile care in a hospital, she died, just a few years before penicillin could have cured her.


My mother appeared to me in a dream, holding two dresses—one blue and one white. When I reached out for the blue dress, my mother said that the blue dress was for Mildred; mine was the white dress. Mildred was buried in the blue dress. I have always thought of my wedding dress as the white dress Mother was speaking of in the dream….


…After the tragic deaths, I cried until there were no more tears. I found that my Christian beliefs helped get me through the grief. I spent many hours alone at home, fantasizing about having a large family sitting around the table with a mother, father, and brothers and sisters laughing, talking, and sharing a meal together.

My dreams came true when I married my college sweetheart, and we eventually had six children sitting around our table. What a wonderful answer to my despair that was! Even at age 102, one of my favorite activities is sitting down at a table, surrounded by those I love, involved in a stimulating conversation filled with laughter.

My experiences with sexism and advice to young women

…I would rather not talk about the sexist remarks and actions of Trump. His campaign brought out what I think is the worst in America. I hated for my little great-granddaughters to hear some of the trash he was spouting off while they were trying to educate themselves by watching presidential debates and the evening news. I only hope America survives his presidency.

Advice for the country at this moment

Look to nature for inspiration. I always liked to have something growing in my yard: rose bushes at the corner window, a bank of irises along the driveway, peonies by the fountain. The stars at night are an amazing sight. Look to nature for rejuvenation of your spirit.

Take care of your personal responsibilities for things that have to be done. Don’t expect others to do for you what you are able to do. Think of ways you can help others….

…Remember what the country was founded on, and make sure you continue to exercise the constitutional rights and democratic principles that have held us together as a nation….

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