Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Aging

I just found out that one of the ladies in my Colorado church died a couple of weeks ago. One of my mom's friends sent her a program from her funeral, or "Celebration of Life." She was 87 when she died. She was always one of those nice church ladies that would say hi to me on Sunday mornings, and I didn't think much else about her or her life. After reading the program, I was hit by two things.

First, it made me think about how we view elderly people. In her obituary, it talked about how she had been a model, founded a school of modeling, staged fashion productions, coordinated the Miss Colorado Springs pageant, and trained several national and international contestants. I was pretty surprised to read that. Of course older people have pasts, but it's hard to think of one of those nice church ladies as being a model and fashionista.

Sure, we care about our own grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, and old family friends, but what about other older people in our churches and neighborhoods? Do we try to get to know them or are we just focused on the people our own age? Maybe we're missing out on opportunities to be friends with people who are different from ourselves. I think that most of the time, younger people need to be the initiators in those kinds of relationships. Often older people don't want to "bother" young people but would really love to talk to us or have some honorary grandkids. I mean, have you ever invited an older person over for dinner? If so, awesome! If not, maybe you should try it sometime.

The other issue that came to mind was aging gracefully. All of us hope, even assume, that we will age gracefully. When we're old, we'll be the cool ones. We'll be the ones that will still go on road trips, fly overseas, go on adventures. A friend and I have had several conversations about how we'll be cool grandmas. We'll live next door to each other and feed neighborhood children cookies and maybe even have wheel-chair races. We don't talk about possible Alzheimer's or feebleness or children that could ignore us. We don't want that.

Included in the program was a poem that the lady wrote before she died. I hope she wouldn't mind that I re-publish it here, because I really want you all to read it. It's a little long, but worth it, I think.


Growing old is what is talked about
With friends I see each day,
We're continually faced with dreaded changes
That seem to happen along the way.

But what has happened to the way I'd planned,
To grow old gracefully and with a smile?
I planned to be serene and all together
And to always do it with great style!

The changes would be only for others
Only THEY would get an unsteady gait
Only THEIR hands would quiver when writing
And wrinkles would be only THEIR fate.

I was sure I'd keep my figure
Cause I wanted to always look great
And not stoop or change my posture
There'd be no negative on MY plate.

But then came the grim reality, and
Finally I had to face the cold hard fact...
That at eighty seven I AM growing old
And it's getting harder to fight back.

But inside my heart cries, "Please understand!
I don't mean to stagger when I walk,
I'd rather my hands not shake holding yours,
And I'd like to be fluent when I talk.

"I'd love it if my voice would stay strong,
And if I could still sing on key;
I'd love to dance, if I could
Cause that youth inside is STILL me."

It's that youth that is still of my choosing.
So my heart won't get wrinkled and gray!
Inside, in my dreams, I can still dance and sing,
And, I'm gonna love my life each step of the way.

I think this sentiment is important for us to remember. Right now, it's unthinkable for us that we'll be out of touch, that we'll go deaf, that we won't be able to dance. That's something that we will all have to face eventually. We should have compassion, not impatience, for those who walk more slowly than us or take a long time at a check-out line. That will be us someday.

Also, what she wrote at the end of the poem is so important. Maybe they wish that they could still go on adventures. Wouldn't that be frustrating to be limited by your own body, to have to give up things you love? Just like us, they want to have fun, to laugh, to love others. Even if a body changes, that doesn't mean the spirit does. Maybe we have more in common than we think.


  1. Old people are the best. They really are. And maybe Professor Kirk would have given that lady an A+ ... it's the perfect balance of joy and bittersweet. Every stage of life is worth living to the full ... and AT every stage of life it's important to take the time to meet others where THEY are at.

  2. Growing old is something I don't think about realistically, and perhaps I should. Also, that's a very good point about taking an interest in older peoples' lives/history. It's got to be so humbling to become old and live in a different generation that is ignorant and uninterested in your past.


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