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

The gentle touch of Christmas December 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 9:11 am

Yesterday I hugged my Daddy’s best “guy” friend, an elderly man who has grown frail in the four years since my father passed away. A plain-spoken, salt-of-the-earth kind of fellow, he had been my Daddy’s fishing and camping buddy for decades.

In all honesty, it was a bittersweet meeting laced with both laughter and tears. He talked of missing my Dad’s friendship and of all the ways his life has changed since macular degeneration stole his eyesight. He spoke tenderly about what it is like to be the primary caregiver for his wife of 67 years.  

When I got up to hug him goodbye, I could feel his bony shoulder blades poking through his freshly-ironed shirt. He seemed so thin, so fragile. So vulnerable.

In that moment, I was reminded of the gift of touch. Of how much we need to feel the warm embrace of encouragement.

As we prepare to celebrate with family and friends, we should remember those who are homebound… those who are lonely…those who need to feel the stroke of another’s hand. 

On the way home, I began to ponder the farewell scene. My Daddy’s friend probably doesn’t even realize that he had just given me a wonderful Christmas gift in return… the gift of touch.


Missing Christmas December 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:15 am

Missing Christmas

My mind guards Christmas memories like they are Ft. Knox.  They are priceless, fragile things.

Images of pajama-clad children standing at the top of the staircase, eager for the OK to rush to the pile of gifts nestled under the glowing tree.

Memories of family gathered round the table, sitting in mismatched chairs, lingering over dessert and another funny story. 

Nostalgic remembrances that tug at my heartstrings.     

But surely there is more to Christmas than goosebump moments. 

Christmas is more than good will.  It is the Good News.

It is more than the magic of  the North Pole. It is the mystery of the manger.    

For nestled deep within holiday traditions and warm feelings is the Christ child. Waiting to be found.

 Let us not confuse sentiment for significance.

 For if we do, we will miss Christmas.


Today I’m making room December 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 9:29 am

Today I am not going to think about unfinished writing projects or speaking requests. I will deal with those tomorrow because December is slipping away and there is something I must do. Today I will crank up the Christmas music and pull up a chair next to the fireplace. I will finish sewing the Christmas stocking for my new grandson, born just days ago.

Last weekend I returned home from keeping the newborn’s older brother while his parents and infant sibling were in the hospital. As I walked in the door and glanced at my fireplace, I couldn’t help but notice that my husband had already rearranged the stockings to make room for the stocking of the newest family member.

I dropped my bag, suddenly realizing that the gap in the line of stockings was an image of Advent. Of making room when other important things crowd our calendars and our minds. For me, making room requires that I pause and be still. 

So today I will put the final stitches on Santa’s beard and let my mind wander through the memories of longago Christmases. I will recall when I was a teenager playing Mary in my church’s living nativity scene on a frigid night. I’ll remember the ugly towel tradition that makes our extended family unique. I’ll replay scenes of squinting in the blinding lights of Uncle Fred’s old 8mm movie camera with enough wattage to light an airstrip.

I’ll remember passing the candlelight on Christmas Eve and watching my excited, pajama-clad children pad down the stairs on Christmas morning. I’ll remember the sound of my father’s voice when he opened the door on Christmas Day and gave a festive “Ho Ho Ho!”  

Today I’m making room in my life to remember the stories of my past. To recall the details of the birth of Jesus. To let the words of the carols flood my soul. Then tomorrow as I return the calls and edit the sentences, I will glance at the stockings in a row and remember to make room.


White elephants: An Advent reflection December 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:19 am

White elephants

 It’s the season when white elephant gifts make their annual appearance.

 From the top shelves of closets and dim attic spaces, they begin their nonsensical journey

            to the Christmas tree. 

There’s the bullfighter gaudily painted on black velvet.

A battery-powered chicken wearing a Santa hat, squawking Jingle Bells as he dances.

And a personal favorite, the armadillo lamp.

They are novelties that make us laugh, at least for a moment.

Outlandish things we don’t need but keep for another year. 

Taking up space until we can re-gift them to another poor soul at another holiday party. 

Like a swap meet for gag gifts and unwanted things that goes on and on.    

So we sit in a circle and laugh at the absurdity of it all. 

I must admit, I don’t recall a white elephant standing at the manger, snuggled between  Mary and baby Jesus.

I smile to myself.     

How grateful I am that God doesn’t give white elephant gifts.