By Janet M Hall
“Life’s for living to the full!” I was listening to Florence Houghton (then aged 83) who had been talking at me for over an hour… and I was hanging off every word. She had recently made a tandem parachute jump (the oldest person to do so in the southern hemisphere) and was looking forward to her next adventure.
However she was a bit peeved at the backlash she received as a result of a special television segment on her made by Sixty Minutes. They’d filmed her doing her ordinary supermarket shopping and some ‘old fogies’ (as Florence called them) had complained that Florence should not have allowed them to film her putting her ‘personals’ (like toilet paper) in the trolley.
Florence exclaimed, “Have they nothing better to notice in life and must they only criticize? Why do they, when there is so much to see and do of wonder?” Florence asked me, “For instance Dr Janet, have you ever seen a spider spin its web? You can sit all day and watch as he creates nature’s most magnificent architectural achievement. And then comes the best part”. She sat back and paused dramatically, “Next morning you get up at dawn and stare in awe at the sight of the dew sparkling on the gossamer threads”. Her eyes blazed with passion as she declared, “Don’t give me diamonds. Just give me the dewdrops on the spiders’ web!”
Not surprisingly, Florence and I struck up a great friendship. I had been presenting a talk called ‘Young At Heart’ for elderly folk and invited Florence to come and do a brief segment. They loved her and Florence took over my talk! She told them her six ‘L’ secrets of life – to Live, Love, Laugh, Look, Listen and Learn. She told them “It’s easy to ‘really look’ and so rewarding if you have patience”. She asked them, “Have you ever watched a rose-bud bloom? I have. I watched all afternoon as each petal unfolded, one by one, just for me. It was so truly beautiful”. Then with her disarmingly wicked sense of humour, Florence continued, “But have you ever watched a dandelion bloom? Well it’s like this. You watch… and you wait… and you watch… and… you wait… and just when you look away to scratch your nose, the rotten thing opens”.
With her fierce sense of independence Florence lived as full a life as she could. As her body became more of a challenge, she always trivialized her limitations and turned them into opportunities for inspiration. For instance, she called her walking frame her ‘chariot of fire’. She took every opportunity to do her public speaking and travelled anywhere at minimal notice. She eagerly embraced any new experience for the thrill – from hot air balloon rides to camel rides to two hundred kilometre an hour laps around the Grand Prix circuit with Peter Brock.
Florence never understood how anyone could be bored on a Sunday. She suggested you should go on a ‘church crawl’. That’s when you take a packed lunch and visit as many churches as you can on route to the central city cathedral for the last service of the day!
Florence Houghton took on her greatest challenge at age ninety-six when she fronted up for a major heart operation and didn’t survive. Her message however, does survive. She taught about living life to its fullest and touching as many hearts as you can, to spark your passion for really appreciating life’s next breath and life’s next challenge. Thank you Florence for your inspiration.
About the Author –
Dr. Janet Hall is a psychologist, hypnotherapist, sex therapist, author, professional speaker, trainer, and media consultant. Dr Jan has authored eight books on family and relationship issues and recorded 42 CDs/MP3s, many use hypnosis. She founded the Richmond Hill Psychology Clinic – http://www.drjanethall.com.au.
Jan consults regularly with print media and is a frequent guest on talk-back radio and current affairs shows. Jan has a unique ability to encourage people to clarify their situation and solve their own problems with both heart (trusting intuition and feelings) and head (with logical analysis and rational prioritization). She believes that people deserve to feel empowered and allow themselves to be the best they can for the good of all.