Reflections on Aging Well

Author, Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults (Upper Room) and Columnist, Aging Well, United Methodist Reporter

Tucked into my Bible September 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 3:28 pm

Not long ago, I attended a weekend event with hundreds of women.  I smiled when I opened my study Bible and turned to the reading in the Psalms.  There, tucked deep within the pages, was a note from a dear elderly friend.  Though she is almost totally blind, she had lovingly scribbled words of friendship onto a small paper a few years ago.  Then she had glued it onto a tissue-paper heart. Just seeing her handcrafted Valentine gave my day a lift.    

 I flipped through other pages and found a small, needlepoint Christmas tree, a hand-stitched gift from another older adult friend who is now on hospice care.  There was also a packet of seeds that had been given to me by a friend at her elderly father’s funeral.  He had been a gardener and a man of great faith.  The seed packets were the family’s way to help us remember the importance of planting seeds of faith into the lives of others.       

 In the New Testament pages, there was a small square of paper on which my Dad had written the name of his two favorite hymns.  We lovingly sang both songs at his  memorial service.  And just a few pages away was a photo of my mother and me, taken at my book signing  at her senior residence a few months before she passed away.     

 These keepsakes remind me of older adults who have impacted my life and my faith journey.  I’m guessing you have them too.  Simple things that recall lives well-lived.  And what better place to keep them than in the pages of scripture?

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What older adults fear most September 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 8:06 am

A few days ago, I made my regular weekly visit to the senior residence center where my parents once lived.  While chatting with older adults who have become my friends, I scanned the dining room in search of a particular 94-year old woman, Edna.  I had seen her in the hospital but the last update indicated that she would soon be moving back to her senior apartment.   

I was about to ask a neighbor about Edna when another woman hurried toward me.  “Missy, we just found out that Edna died… ten days ago!”

I gasped.  Ten days ago?  Why hadn’t someone told me?  Why hadn’t someone told the residents? 

Word of Edna’s death began to spread like a California wildfire through the residence center.  Smiles turned downward as residents discovered that their friend had passed away.  Most were outwardly shocked, not so much about her death, but that no one had told them.  In fact, they were grieved to think that not one of them had attended their friend’s funeral.

Later that day I spoke with Edna’s daughter.  I learned there had been no obituary.  But she had indeed phoned the center’s office and asked them to share the news with the residents.  Sadly, the administrators made a terrible mistake.  The announcement of Edna’s death was never made. 

Back in the dining room, I listened to the troubled conversations among the elderly residents, realizing that their talk hinted at even deeper concerns. Most older adults are not afraid of dying.  At least that was the consensus of this group.  Sure, they are fearful of lingering in a state of suffering or outliving their money, but most of all, they are afraid of being left alone and forgotten.     

I couldn’t help but wonder if churches truly understand this fear, especially among those who are frail.  Are families keenly aware of the importance of their presence in the lives of older loved ones? 

Let us be the hands of Christ that hold wrinkled, trembling hands in ours.  Let us be the feet of Christ, slowing our pace to match those using walkers.  Let us be the smile of Christ, the One who never forgets his aging children.

 

Get thee up from thy rocking chair September 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 6:41 am

This weekend, I sat in a rocking chair on my front porch.  With coffee in hand, I had a front-row seat for a 5K Fun Run going through our neighborhood of new-old homes.  Though I often walk the trails for exercise, when it comes to running, I’m more of a porch-sitter.     

 There was a light mist as I began to take note of the participants passing by.  The most well-fit runners, both older teens and young adults, were leading the pack.  But there were lots of families, too.  Some even had elementary-aged children and babies in strollers.  I watched and waved, wishing them well.

 I was about to go inside when I realized there was one more runner on the course.  Actually, he was a walker.  I would have guessed him to be in his early 80’s with arthritic knees and a 100-watt smile that flashed when I offered a good morning.

 The pack of runners had made its way past my home, through the winding nature trails and back to the street where they now were running in the opposite direction of the older man.

 I was struck by the words of encouragement a few of them gave to the man as they passed him in front of my home.  I could hear one  saying, “Good race!”  “You’re getting there, friend,” said another. 

 As the rain began to fall harder, the older man’s clothes were getting soaked.  His pace slowed even more as he carefully watched his footing on the wet pavement.  It seemed he had plenty of reasons to quit the race, but he kept on moving. 

 By now, the other runners had been out of sight for a good while.  I continued to watch for the older man to complete the nature trail and make it back to the street in front of my home.  I waited.  I rocked.  I got a second cup of coffee.  Finally, I saw him in the distance.

 I could hardly wait for him to reach shouting distance. “You are doing great!”  I said before adding, “A great inspiration!”

  I could see that smile stretch across his face again. 

 “Me?” he said. 

 Oh yes!  This man and countless other older adults who refuse to give up on life when it gets hard. 

 It got me to thinking about the many older adults who desperately need someone to encourage them on the last leg of life’s journey.  If we truly want to be the hands and feet of Christ, we’ve got to start by getting up from our comfortable rocking chairs and walking alongside another.

 

God Questions from Older Adults September 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 8:46 pm

Last week, I decided to ask some older adult friends what questions they would like to ask God.  These good folks range in age from 78 to 98.  Some reside in senior complexes or assisted living centers.  A few still live at home, independently.   All are people of faith.

This is just a sampling of their spiritual questions.  I sometimes wonder if clergy, lay persons and family members realize how older adults wrestle with such important questions.    

 “When will I die?”

 “Scripture says you will remember my sins no more.  But scripture also talks a lot about judgment. Which way is it? Or is it somehow both?” 

 “When it’s my time, may I please die at home in my own bed?”   

 “Why am I still here?”

 “Why does growing old hurt so much?”

 “Is it OK to be cremated and have my ashes scattered, even if my family is opposed?”

 “Why did you take my spouse so early?” 

 “Do you ever laugh at what people write in obituaries?”

 “Why do you allow tornadoes and hurricanes to kill people?”

 “Why do you choose to intervene in some situations but not in others?”