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Miyako

Chiyo Miyako died on Sunday.

She was 117 years old.

News reports say she was the oldest person on the planet.

I didn’t know Miyako. Never heard of her before reading the news story.

But when it comes to accomplishments, she’s got everybody else beat. At least in the growing old category.

She didn’t discover a cure for cancer, or win a Nobel Peace Prize, or write an important book, or rule a country, or win a sports championship.

She just outlived everybody.

Think about it.

Miyako was born in Japan on May 2, 1901, before airplanes existed, or television, or washing machines, and just a few years after the first version of an automobile creaked down the road.

She lived through World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, not to mention the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Spanish Civil War.

She lived in two different centuries: the 1900s and the 2000s. And during those centuries she saw death camps in Germany and genocide in Rwanda, civil unrest in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. She saw man walk on the moon and the internet globally connect the world, and at the same time she saw the destruction of the rain forests and the birth of the nuclear bomb.

She outlived U.S. Presidents, Japanese emperors, European leaders and kings, Hollywood movie stars, renowned sports figures, and literary prodigies. People and fads and decades came and went and Miyako was there for all of them, from hula hoops to cell phones.

Type “Chiyo Miyako” into Google Images and you’ll see photos of her, and she looks really, really old.

But think of how old your mother or your grandmother looked when they were 58 1/2 years old. Now double that to 117 and imagine what they would have looked like at that age. In truth, for someone who was 1.17 centuries old, Miyako did not look all that bad.

And when you look at the dozen or so photos online of Miyako, you’ll notice something.

In every photo, she is smiling.

Big smiles from a woman who witnessed more than a century of war and strife, more than a century of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and more than a century of technology taking precedence over mother nature.

Miyako saw it all.

And still, at the end, she could smile.

A giant, isn’t-the-world-wonderful smile.

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