Love, Life & Lucille
Lessons Learned from a Centenarian by Judy Gaman: Review by Meilee Anderson
When beautiful emotions hit you in the feels and you can’t find the right words, tears say it for you. I found that to be true as I read Love, Life & Lucille. This book made me smile, chuckle and cry…the good kind of cry.
I love a good memoir but Love, Life & Lucille is more than a memoir. The book tells the story of a real-life friendship between Judy Gaman and Lucille. Their friendship is the stuff of legends! We should all be so lucky to have such a strong connection with a bestie. We should all be so lucky to have a Lucille in our lives.
The book takes place in Texas. We meet the author, Judy Gaman a woman busy juggling a demanding work environment, family life, and conducting research in preparation for writing her next book. In the course of her research she meets centenarians willing to share their secrets to longevity, insights into aging and living to 100. On what seems to be an ordinary day with an ordinary interview Judy meets the extraordinary Lucille.
Lucille is a vivacious firecracker, whom it turns out is an inspiration to not only age gracefully but to do so with fun and panache. Lucille and Judy hit it off. Their friendship begins with the interview, continues over lunch and progresses for nearly two incredible years. Their time together wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. The two ladies do some serious life together.
Award winning author Judy Gaman’s style is straight-talking, unfiltered, and folksy. I found her work easy to read and relate to. She captured Lucille’s joyful essence and painted such a clear picture of their relationship I felt like I knew the two of them. I liked this book so much. Once I started reading, I didn’t put it down until 150 pages later. And even then, I put the book down reluctantly.
I’ve spent a little bit of time with the elderly. As a young child I had an “adopted grandmother,” a lonely widow who lived down the street. I loved that woman. I used to ride my bike to her house. We read books, played games, worked on puzzles, and had tea parties. When she passed away, I grieved the loss.
In my 20’s I played the piano regularly for an assisted living center and developed friendships with some of the residents. In my 30’s I met Gloria who was a dazzling woman in her late 70’s. Gloria gave me some advice that changed my life. In my 40’s I had the opportunity to ride a train and have a lovely picnic with a lady named Mary who was 102 years young. Mary had a dazzling smile, a spring in her step, and wore a flower on her lapel.
I once helped plan a military reunion for the Living Survivors of the Bataan Death March. This distinguished group of veterans (which included civilian nurses) changed my life. I ended up in a 12-year friendship with one of them until he passed away. And even now I correspond regularly with an exceptionally cool woman in her 80’s. She’s traveled more than I have and hiked more mountains than I have. I like reading her stories and enjoy our friendship.
All my life I’ve had fun encounters with people older, and wiser than me. After all, in the blink of an eye, I’ll be the elderly one. I hope have the same joie de vivre as Lucille. I hope I have the dedication of Judy in my own personal friendships.
After reading Love, Life & Lucille my takeaways are:
- Never judge a book by its cover. Your life changing friend might not look the way you expect a bestie to look.
- Friendships can start in unexpected ways.
- Friendships take time. You have to show up for each other.
After finishing this book I was inspired to call my bestie. I can’t wait for quarantine to end and for it to be safe to travel again. I have some lovely people I need to spend more time with.
As a determined professional in her forties, Judy Gaman didn’t realize that she was trapped in an unrelenting and all-too-common cycle of workaholism, something she inherited from both her parents. She spent so much time keeping her head down and pursuing her professional dreams that she lost sight of the little things in life that really matter.
While writing a book about longevity, Judy met centenarian (100+ yrs. in age) Lucille Fleming in Dallas. Lucille was larger than life, and what was supposed to be a short meeting turned into an inseparable friendship. The two bonded and through their shared stories, they learned that true friendship knows no age. They also discovered that the human experience, regardless of generation, has similar milestones that shape our lives and make us who we become.
Lucille’s lessons would ultimately help Judy break free from the chains of workaholism. But it wasn’t until Lucille’s death that Judy realized the importance of the first lesson Lucille ever taught her. Love, Life, & Lucille highlights the core of Lucille’s secret to a long and meaningful life