Going Wild at 97!
“What’s this thing called a bucket list?” 97-year-old Jeannie Johnson asked. “All the things you haven’t done yet that you’d still like to,” explained her best friend Steve, aged 65.
On Jeannie’s list were white-water rafting, skydiving and going up in a hot air balloon. Steve obliged, organizing the trips and going with her on each adventure. It’s not clear which one of these two inspires the other most. “She makes me see what I’ll be able to do in the future’, smiles Steve. “And he makes me see that now, I can just do it,” replies Jeannie.
The two besties met four years ago when Steve moved into the 55+ retirement home where Jeannie lives in Sacramento. “The first time I saw him he was decorating a Christmas tree for our community,” Jeannie explains, and since then Steve has been the driving force behind all sorts of activities inspiring the elderly to gather together and share love and connection. Everything from jaunts out for ice-cream sundaes, to movie nights and pot-luck dinners.
But it was when Steve started telling Jeannie of his plans to return to WildQuest after ten years and take his daughter and son-in-law, that Jeannie said she’d also like to go along for the ride. “Every time we take something out of the bucket list because we’ve done it, Jeannie puts something else back in,” Steve explains.
Steve told Jeannie how his previous trip with the dolphins had helped him recover from a serious injury, part of a whole lifestyle change that included a new diet, chiropractors, yoga and meditation. “The most important thing I learned at WildQuest though, was about being in the moment. Learning to be in the here and now is the most healing thing of all,” Steve offers.
What else did these two soul-buddies enjoy about being at WildQuest? The first moment Jeannie spotted the dolphins was magical. “We were just about to turn back, after the day out at sea and suddenly, there they were,” in the warm, crystal clear waters. Jeannie watched them from the bow of the boat, lying on her belly, looking down as the rest of the human pod slipped into the water to swim. “I was really surprised to see how big they are when you get up so close,” she reports, “And the other lovely thing was being able to watch from above as the dolphins swam between the people. Sometimes the swimmers were looking the wrong way and didn’t realize the dolphins were right beside them or underneath!”
“The WildQuest team and all the guests were always looking out for Jeannie,” Steve explains, helping her on and off the boat and making sure everything was as comfortable as can be. “It felt like family”, adds Jeannie.
On their last day, Steve and Jeannie explored the island. “We even loved the rain,” Steve muses, with characteristic acceptance of things as they are. “But the highlight that day was meeting a lovely islander, probably as old as me, but he’d lost all his teeth,” Jeannie interrupts. Steve finishes the story. “I told her she should lift her skirt a little to show how much she liked him,” Steve suggests, which didn’t prove necessary as the lovely man drove them sightseeing around the island in his battered old truck.
The love and respect shared between Jeannie and Steve was a privilege to behold for the WildQuest staff and guests that week.
“Steve’s courage and devotion to helping others, to give and give is amazing. Just like the people who run WildQuest,” muses Jeannie. “It’s a fellowship, everyone working together for a higher vision.” Positivity and concern for universal truths and knowing we’re all connected was what the two friends loved most about their time here this August. “We became part of the pod, part of the ‘us’ that knows there’s still so much good in the world,” they add, together.
On their return, Jeannie and Steve shared that goodness, photos and the experience with the community back in the retirement home. All the more encouragement to try new things and stay young. “They ask us daily, what we’re going to do next,” Jeannie smiles.
“Zip-lining probably,” Jeannie suggests. They’re also planning a three-week long African safari next year, “But we’ll only see animals in the wild,” says Steve, “WildQuest has taught me that the only place to see any creature is in their natural habitat”.
From all the WildQuest team, we love you, Jeannie and Steve. Thank you for inspiring us with your kindness and beautiful souls. We hold you forever in our hearts.