Slices of Life: Lessons learned from Alice

At 96 years old, she read something that touched her and she reached out to me in a human way. Let that sink in.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

I often receive feedback and notes from readers via email or Facebook. I love messages from people who read this column. Each one is appreciated.

Recently, however, I got something a little different from most. I received a handwritten letter from a kind woman named Alice, who is 96 years old and in good health. Her doctor told her it’s likely she’ll live to be 100.

In her letter she told me a little about her family: children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren. But the real reason for her writing was to request information about my late husband. She felt like she knew me through my columns and wanted to know more about him, because she cared on a human level.

I answered her request, and today I got a second letter. She thanked me for answering and shared more information, as letters are supposed to do.

As I read her handwritten words, I came to an important conclusion.


In these days of internet (mis)information, electronic correspondence, distance learning, social media (un)truths, impersonal personal communication and living in our own COVID bubbles, we could all learn a lot from Alice.

At 96 years old, she read something that touched her and she reached out to me in a human way. Let that sink in. By age 46 or 56 or 66, many of us have all but given up on new friends or new connections.

At 96, Alice could be our grandmother or great-grandmother, and she isn’t done reaching out. She isn’t finished making human connections. In a culture of COVID, she found a way to meet me on a human level.

This is nothing short of astounding and worth all of our respect and admiration. Alice understands we all need to connect to one another and she isn’t done trying. She understands humanity. That leaves me in awe.

She is nearly twice my age and she is still trying. She is still paying it forward.

In the last few months, I’ve been tired and sad and spent. I don’t think I could have imagined paying it forward four or five decades from now.

Until Alice. Alice has made me know this should be a possibility. No, it should be a reality — for all of us.

We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to each other. We owe it to all of humanity to keep up this good fight.


My life was changed forever by grief, but beyond that, all of our lives were changed by the grief of COVID. We can’t give up hope. We can’t give up faith. We can overcome this. We can come together. We are supposed to come together.

Our country, and the world in general, is counting on us. Today, more than ever in our own lifetimes we cannot become complacent. We cannot take things for granted. We cannot assume our blessings are simply a given or will be a part of our lives forever.

If the last year has taught me anything, it is this: Nothing is guaranteed. Don’t take anything for granted because the rug can be pulled out from under you at any time.

Reaching out may feel like work. It may require energy you may not have because darn it, this COVID has taken it out of all of us. When you feel this way, think of Alice, who at 96 is still giving it her best shot.

She may be 96, but her doctor told her she’ll probably live to be 100. I sure hope so.

Thanks Alice, for reaching out. This column is dedicated to you.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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