Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beauty Knows No Age Limits...

Spent some time with my favorite poet last evening, reading some of the "gems" from Mary Oliver's latest volume, A Thousand Mornings. And as I read the words of one of them, "Poem of the One World", I wept, the beauty of the words overtaking me, astounding me, aweing me, bringing me to my knees, for I was hearing the voice of God coming from the pen of this seventy-eight-year-old poet. Thanks be to God!

 
POEM OF THE ONE WORLD by Mary Oliver

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

Friday, January 11, 2013

How, Then, Shall We Age?

"No one ever tells us what happens when you get old."
The sweet, white-haired woman seated in the wheelchair before me clung to my hand and looked searchingly into my eyes.
"I never knew it would be like this- that my world would get smaller and smaller, that there would be fewer and fewer things I can do."

There she sat in her lovely, red, wool sweater, gazing out the windows at the chill sunshine outdoors. "I made it, you know, quite a few years ago," she responded when I complimented her on the cheerful beauty of what she wore. "I used to knit quite a lot, and I still can, but my hands get cramped if they are in one position too long, and I have a little more trouble keeping track of the rows and the stitches."

A lovely woman, a sweet expression on her countenance, but I could hear her frustration, her longing, for what could never again be.
"We lose many things as we get older, don't we?" I mused.
"Oh, yes," came the reply, "so I guess we just have to be thankful for what we still have."

It is a refrain I hear over and over again as I walk the halls of our care and caring facility in Winston-Salem, NC. Aging carries with it so many, many losses, and perhaps most significantly, the loss of the image of ourself we had carried with us throughout our life. Who are we, I hear their voices ask again and again, when we can no longer do the things we once did, when so many of the people in our lives are gone, when our world becomes confined mostly to the four walls of our room?

And as I look in the mirror and see the reality that I am no longer young, I find myself faced with the same questions. Oh, I would like to believe that I will never find myself in the position of being unable to go and do as I wish, but the dear people who surround me day by day remind me that life often does not go the way we had planned and that I- we- none of us, can predict where and how our paths in life will take us.

I can remember telling my children- then teen-agers and me a forty-something- that until I turned ninety they were not permitted to refer to me as "old". At ninety- should I be granted that many years- they had my permission to refer to me as "an old lady". Makes me chuckle to think of that now, as I see the many faces of aging, of being elderly, of being "old", some people truly old in their sixties while others remain pepetually young- at least in attitude and perspective- well into their late eighties and even into their nineties.

I am learning that, for so many elders, the most important thing is to be seen and heard by someone...to be touched and hugged and kissed on the cheek or forehead, to be listened to, even when the stories are the same over and over again. I sing the same hymn with one 87-year-old woman whenever I come into her room because she loves it and, taking my hand, she sings along in her somewhat shaky voice and then thanks God for my singing with her. With another, I simply sit and listen as she talks about her concerns for her daughter, though I have heard them many times. There is a man on one hall who always tells me how beautiful I look- and he means it. And another greets me- and everyone else- with, "Have a blessed day and all that good stuff." What I have to offer- ALL I have to offer, I have come to realize- is my presence. But that seems gift enough...and I am truly humbled by that fact.

Back to my red-sweater-wearing friend...no, Louisa, no one tells us about how to get old, any more than they tell us how to be a teen-ager or young married or new parent. Life, it seems, is about learning as we go, a kind of "on-the-job training", if you will. And I guess all we can do is live each day as fully, as wisely, as openly, as joyfully as possible, aware that those days are numbered- and to be thankful for what each day brings. And if that includes being hugged, and heard, and loved, hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Aging...Gracefully?


Here I am, no longer young,
No longer middle-aged, but moving
Into old age which lies ahead
With the seeming-inevitability of my
Next breath.
And how will I receive it, this
Passage of life's time?
Will I embrace it as a warm and
Welcoming friend, or will I fight
Tooth and nail to hold it at
Arm's length?
Can I see and accept both the
Gifts it brings and the losses of
Those things which slip away?
Can I spend this aging time in
embracing both cherished memories
And the active, daring present?
Can I accept the limitations of a
Changing body while still caring
Wisely & well for my physical,
Mental, and spiritual health?
Today is the day I have, at
Seventy-one years and five days
Of age.
May I live it fully, with both
Wisdom and joy, open to both
Giving and receiving.
And when I lie down to sleep
This night, may I embrace the
Healing tenderness of rest from
My labors of love and living.

 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

No Church...Epiphany 2013

I find I am not up to company in which I cannot be myself today. What a dreadful thing to have to say about church, of all places. But I heard it yesterday...the reactions when I replied, "Fine," without any accompanying exuberance to the question, "How are you today?".
"Only fine?" one person said.
"That doesn't sound like you," said another.

I had attended my first Al-Anon meeting in the morning and the reality of that was still clinging to me, giving me comfort but also making me very aware of this new journey on which I was embarked. There the masks were dropped...there, we were encouraged to be fully ourselves.

Well, I don't want to have to put on a mask in order to be in company, so it is easier to stay by myself on this Epiphany Sunday, to read & write & think & pray. There is email for contact, and the phone if I want to hear another's voice.

Just makes me feel incredibly sad that the message seems to be that we ought to be up, up, up when we are at church, wearing a pasted-on smiley face, even when inside our heart is breaking. What about, "Come to me, you who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest"? Mighty hard to hear that Voice when all around are the chirping voices of good cheer- and the smiles! (which may be covering how many other breaking hearts?)

I know I'm being judgmental...sorry, God, but I can't do it today. And even though my heart is beginning to heal, I cannot risk having the tender new scab torn off by the unrelenting cheerfulness which abounds within those walls. I am hurting still- and so my own lovely blue walls will form my chapel today, my still-decorated tree reminding me of the significance of this day of Making Known. And I will sit with the One Who Knows without once having to smile or explain myself. 

A Different Journey...

My new year has begun, not with a bang but with a whimper, a plaintive cry of, "Help me. Help my child." And that prayer is being answered as the first baby steps toward recovery are being taken by my son. Gratitude overflows from my heart...for the God-in-human-flesh made manifest to me in my precious friends and family, far and near, who are offering support, who are surrounding us in love and light. Incarnation indeed. Epiphany indeed. Thanks be to God.