There are times when you get a wake-up call. It was December 5, 2018, and we were in the Rehab Hospital where Mary Jo was recovering from a fall and two cracked bones in her neck. She got a call from her brother to tell her that her sister-in-law Jo Anne had died. It all makes you start thinking about the aging process.
The only alternative to dealing with the infirmities of old age is to die young, and none of us want that option. (There are, of course, a few who choose to terminate life early but that is an illness that we consider a tragedy.) As we get older we not only have to deal with our own diminishing strength and vitality, we have to watch the lives of our friends fade away.
How do we honor the lives of our family and friends whom we have known and loved for many years? When you reach your eighties many have been taken away by cancer, heart attacks, and other illnesses. Others have slipped away into never-never land. Thousands of years of memory gone or dimming ever so slowly. Years of love and sacrifice and hard work – gone. Years of devotion, commitment and ministry – gone. Years of caring and providing for children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – gone. Years of affection and caring for hundreds of children whom we were blessed to teach in Sunday School, Choir, Vacation Bible School, Church Camp and other ministries – gone – all relegated to the pages of history.
During the last decade, thirty two (that I can remember) friends, in our age group, have died. Four have lost all or almost all contact with their former lives. Five others are dealing with slow but progressive loss of memory, and Parkinson’s disease has affected three others.
Service and Blessing
So far we are survivors and we have been blessed. There have been hardships and disappointments, but there have also been joy and happiness. We have all reached the point in life where we do not pray for strength to run the marathon; we are content to pray for peace and understanding. We are dealing with falls, loss of hearing, fading eyesight, failing kidneys, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s and all the other infirmities that are incumbent with old age.
What do we do? How do we honor our friends and maintain meaning in life? We pray for strength to meet whatever future we have with dignity. Perhaps we should take whatever strength and time we have left and use it to love and support our friends and those who need us.
Be alert; keep your eyes open; listen for the small voice. We may be old and battered, but that does not mean we cannot serve our Lord when the opportunity to serve is presented to us. Be ready when your name is called. No matter the circumstances, we are blessed. Praise the Lord.
When I wrote the reflections above, I did not know that in a little over four months I would add Mary Jo’s name to the list of those who had died. One week before she died I was out looking for another rehabilitation facility where she could fully recover. I knew she had a serious heart condition, and I knew that she had just recovered from a bout with pneumonia, but I had many plans for the rest of our lives. It is interesting that I not only lost her love and companionship, I lost the plans and the dreams for the future. We would not get to take one more trip to Europe. (I wanted so much to take her to Florence and show her the architecture and art of Leonardo De Vinci and Michelangelo.) We would not get to celebrate the birthdays of our great grandchildren. We would not again get to watch the sun set over the red rocks of Sedona. The abrupt change in dreams is what is so devastating. You do not know the depth of loss until it is yours.