Today, Nov. 29, 2016, Emma Morano celebrated her 117th birthday in Rome, Italy, where she lives. She is the oldest person alive, the only living person on earth born in the 1800s, and the only living person who has been alive at one point during the last three centuries (1800s, 1900s, 2000s).
She also shares a birthday with C. S. Lewis, who was also born on Nov. 29. (Side-note: November is a significant month for Lewis fans. He was born in this month and also died in this month on Nov. 22, 1963.)
But this is where it gets mind-blowing (at least for me). This is where the amazing reality of her longevity--and all that it implies--really sinks in.
She was born only one year after C. S. Lewis. He was born in 1898; she was born in 1899. If she had been born in Belfast, Ireland or England instead of Italy, she might have been in the same school as Lewis. They could have met and dated. She was only a year younger than Lewis, easily within the range of age to have been "on his radar," so to speak, if they had been classmates.
In other words, a person who was a part of Lewis' generation is still alive today. Emma Morano shared Lewis' vantage point of life and history. They learned to walk and talk around the same time. They were mischievous teenagers at the same time. They were strutting through the peak of their youth--20s and early 30s--at the same time. They were dealing with the angst of mid-life at the same time as they reached their 40s and 50s, all the while celebrating their birthday on the same day every year, he in England, she in Italy. Their lives moved through history in parallel motion.
Except for one minor detail: C. S. Lewis died in 1963.
Emma Morano kept living for another 53 years and counting. If she stays alive eleven more years, she will have lived twice as long as Lewis.
You can read her story here.
Besides sharing the astonishing facts above, in honor of C. S. Lewis' birthday I'd like to share a quote from his novel "The Great Divorce." It describes a soul's journey into Heaven. I believe on this day 53 years ago Lewis experienced something akin to the following description:
I got out. The light and coolness that drenched me were like those of summer morning, early morning a minute or two before the sunrise, only that there was a certain difference. I had the sense of being in a larger space, perhaps even a larger sort of space, than I had ever known before: as if the sky were further off and the extent of the green plain wider that they could be on this little ball of earth. I had got ‘out’ in some sense which made the Solar System itself seem an indoor affair.