1912552_10152730971692953_448018332904515040_nI was working remotely earlier this week at Sloopy’s Diner ( one of my many local wireless refuge ) when I heard a man in a white t-shirt and a tight hair cut talking loud for no reason at all. In fact, he was talking and coughing louder than anyone on the block. Apparently, he was mowing lawns and hanging out in the air-conditioning on a hot summer day.

Occasionally, he’d blurt out some random statement about the weather or the price of hot dogs, but when he said he was turning 59 next week – Eula proudly spoke up and said, “I’m 98!”

Well that caught my attention. I stopped by Skype chat and turned to the little lady in the corner and asked, “What did you say?”

She said, “I’m 98 years old.”

I couldn’t believe it. She looked no more than her early eighties and gleaming a smile that lit up the room. I asked her name from across the restaurant and she said “Eula Riddle from Jonesborough.”

Walking toward her I described myself as a “storyteller” and asked to take her picture. I knew immediately this would be something I’d share. Eula didn’t hesitate for a second – she said…”Why sure!” She smiled a wide grin and one shot was all it took.

Meeting a stranger who’s almost an centenarian is not a everyday coincidence. Although Eula is by definition an octagenarian, it’s not only rare to have a lucid conversation, it’s even more intriguing to find someone so vibrant at this age.  I’m aware of the special attributes these souls bring into our lives. To take a moment and look into her eyes and absorb the advice and special memories she holds in her sparkle is something I don’t take lightly.

Eula spelled her name and described how she was married to Don Riddle for 71 years. He worked at Burlington and died 9 years ago. Together they lived on the old Jonesborough highway. She said, “We had a beautiful house together and raised three children.” She also beamed when she said the Lord had blessed her.

I told Eula I was getting married and 37 days. With her 71 year spread, it was important for me to ask for her best advice for a marriage like her own.

“Find a good local church,” she said. “The Lord will take care of the rest.”

She was concise and confident with her statement and I know she loved her husband deeply. When she spoke about how she missed him, her speech slowed and her eyes seem to fade off into a memory as if running a romantic film of their best times. She stopped and carefully stated, “I miss him so much. I miss him every single day.”

Eula’s faith seemed to be the cornerstone of her secrets for longevity. She admitted her love of hot dogs – that’s why she was at Sloppy’s. Her daughter, B.J. (one of three ciblings) is retired and together they get their “hair done” on Wednesdays in Kingsport.

As we talked, Mrs. Riddle seemed to glow that much more. From those moments, I’ll have to consider her advice. Although BJ made a comment that it works for her, she seemed a bit more cautious about the advice. I suppose that’s a tendency for anyone who’s life hasn’t turned with such fortune as Eula, but it’s still good advice and at this point in my life, I’ll take what I can get. After all she’s walked here twice as long as journey. God speed Eula!