Click here to read Growing Old – Part I
In his fifties, and now satisfied with a normal life again, the man had a conversation with his father. He had watched his father becoming frail and forgetful. The idea of getting old had been distasteful all of his life. He had hidden it away from everyone, but it had come out in his midlife crisis the year before.
He listened to his father talk of the good old days when things were simpler, when there was glory and he was a force to be reckoned with. He concluded that memories of the past were was all his father had. He regretted there was nothing useful to say about it. He couldn’t fix it somehow or take it away for him.
He hated the thought of losing his father and turned away as the thought crossed his mind. His father was watching him, he noticed suddenly. Meeting his eye, he knew the question before it was asked. “Penny for your thoughts?”
After an internal struggle with how to be respectful and yet truthful, he finally admitted his thoughts. He managed to say what a shame it was that they had to grow old. He met his father’s glance and was surprised to see a glimmer of laughter in his eyes. He listened as his father explained his progression to today, how he had regrets along the way that included losing his wife of many years. He admitted that he had never thought he would live as long as he had. “But”, he said with great force and wagging a finger at his son, “I have loved every minute.”
His father went on to explain that although his energy, independence, and health were not what they were, there were trade-offs of equal value. He spoke about the person he had become, the chance to see children and grandchildren grow up, and the amazing discoveries and inventions he had witnessed that the younger generation never understood and appreciated. He recounted several innovations that made everyday life easier. He commented that he had tried to imagine what his grandmother would have said to have just one of those innovations to make her life easier, and how he wished he could have given that to her.
“Change”, his father concluded with a slight smile, “it’s coming and there’s no doubt about it. Growing old is not for wimps, it’s hard to see your body lose so much of what it had. It’s terrifying to realize you are losing control and abilities you always took for granted. But if I had to choose, I would still choose to be here to see it all, to be a part of the adventure.”
—————Thoughts that motivated this story—————
In this story I looked at the fear of aging and dying and another side to it.
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
In Matthew 3:2 the news proclaimed is about a big change. The change John the Baptist promised was right around the corner, and although it was something long expected, there is always difficulty with change. Just hearing a big change is on the horizon can make heart race. No matter how long the wait, when a change finally arrives it is accompanied by uncertainty, even fear. Those hearing John’s message had to have a mixture of emotions and the stomach churning physical response as well.
As I tried to come up with a change that everyone knew would be coming, aging seemed appropriate. We know it is coming, we have been told about it all of our lives. We can’t stop it, and yet our society is obsessed with pretending it can be wished or bought away. I don’t often hear anyone recognizing the wisdom that comes with age as a benefit, and it makes me so sad. It is normal to be afraid of the change caused by aging. It is sobering to realize the body is slowing down, that there are folks younger than us, and the emotional upheaval when how we have defined ourselves is suddenly endangered.
We can live in that fear, and many people do. It is completely normal. In both stories I tried to convey my belief that there is beauty in all stages of life. Solomon wrote of the woes of aging, but admonished us not to forget our creator; who our spirit will return to. Today I attended a funeral for my Great Uncle and mourned with those who mourn and thought much of that return. Death has lost its sting because the kingdom of heaven came to earth. That is no trivial boring scripture; it is news to be shouted about.