Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Growing Older

Accepting what you cannot change

An old woman feeding birds in Kazimierz
the old Jewish district in Krakow, Poland.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I clipped this stanza of verse from an old book, because this is how I would prefer to grow old -- with a zest for living.

At sixty-two life is begun;
At seventy-three begin once more.
Fly swifter as you near the sun,
And brighter shine at eighty-four.
At ninety-five
Shouldst thou arrive,
Still wait on God, and work and thrive.

Uncredited poet, quoted by Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, in All Around the House, or, How to Make Homes Happy. Published in New York, 1881, by D. Appleton and Co.

That's upbeat, don't you think? But apparently, the book's author, Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, thought it was an inadequate,  shallow vision of old age.

In a long, depressing commentary that follows the poem, Mrs. Beecher says that old age is often not the easy experience envisioned in the poem. She describes how someone can be doing very well as they clip along through life. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a serious illness can transform robust maturity into helpless dependency.

Mrs. Beecher concludes her lament with this paragraph:

But to be stopped in the midst of usefulness and stricken down helpless — to become a burden where once one was most looked to for help — to meet this mysterious dispensation with patience and courage, and, without a murmur, cheerfully wait God's own good time — is an attainment which none acquire but those who live near to Heaven — whose "life is hid with Christ in God."

Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, in All Around the House, or, How to Make Homes Happy. Published in New York, 1881, by D. Appleton and Co.

Mrs. Beecher is not wrong, but I'm not sure why she makes this point. Maybe she wants people to better understand the suffering that some endure. Or maybe she thinks people should better appreciate the saintliness of some who endure suffering.

Or is Mrs. Beecher reminding us that such suffering could be in our own futures? If so, this is my comment: God doesn't want His children to obsess and prematurely grieve over the infinity of ills that the future could hold. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about worry and asks, "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" and "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

The Lord is My Shepherd


Stitchy Mc Floss said...

Amen! If we spend all of today worrying about tomorrow, then we have wasted the day that God gave us. It's not called the Present for nothing. :)

Sunny said...

Very good post .... food for thought. I want to have a zest for life for every day that I am given to live.

Runawayimagination said...

Good philosophy. I'm nearing 65 and play keyboards in a 60s-70s rock band at the top of my game. I don't plan to ever slow down.

One thing that I have learned from the many deaths of people close to me (both parents and a wife) is that life is short. That's it. Life is short, so make the most of it while you can.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.