March 2, 2013
This is fifth and final part of my series on aging and ageism.
This week I’m introducing you to my departed friend George, who was 80-years-old when admitted to hospice (the second time) with end stage heart disease. I’ve never known anyone who loved to work more, or kicked against the goads of aging harder than George did. He was always asking me, “Why don’t you do me a favor. When you’re praying throw one up to the Big Man for me and ask Him to just give me enough energy to do some work.”
George lived alone in the home that he and his deceased wife, Lucille, almost totally rebuilt. Lucille died in hospice about five years earlier and George grieved her death profoundly. George and Lucille were both meticulous about their home and it looked like something out of “Home and Garden” magazine. But George was getting too weak to keep it up and was perpetually frustrated because of it.
George exclaimed, “I’m so miserable…I’m worn out. I’m tired of living like this.
I just realized about three or four months ago that I’m an old man…and I don’t like it and I tell God so…I’ve asked Him over a hundred times to give me some energy but He doesn’t answer…God says for us to take all our cares to Him but I don’t think He gets involved in things like He used to. If God loves me so much why doesn’t He do something for me? Why does He let me be so miserable…But I know that He loves me. You might think I’m crazy but I heard Him tell me once, ‘George I love you.’”
I suggested to George that God wasn’t picking on him, that what was happening to him was just, “common to man” (I Corinthians 10:13). I told George that his sentiments reminded me of the Book of Ecclesiastes which King Solomon wrote almost 3,000 years ago, in his old age. I asked George for a Bible and started reading excerpts: “One generation passes away and another generation comes…To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born a time to die…He has made everything beautiful in its time…but time and chance happen to them all…” But George’s favorite passages was chapter 12: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’…in the days when the keepers of the house (arms and legs) tremble…when the grinders (teeth) cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows (eyes) grow dim…and the golden bowl (heart) is broken…” George exclaimed, “Now I can really identify with that guy!”
If you, like George, can identify with Solomon, I encourage you to study the Book of Ecclesiastes; it is filled with what pastor and author, Chuck Swindoll, terms, “Insights for Living.” I would also recommend a book by Chuck Swindoll titled “Living on the Ragged Edge,” which is an in depth study of the Book of Ecclesiastes. As we age, especially in our age denying, ageist culture, it is important to identify and cooperate with the “seasons’ and “times”, and to understand that “He has made everything beautiful in its time;” every stage of life, including old age. But we also need to be careful of “acting our age.” We need to heed the words of my departed friend, Ed, who told me while in his 90s, “People get old before their time because they get old in their minds…I don’t count my birthdays I count my blessing…I have a job to do.”
As a wise pastor explained to me, “The present and the future aren’t always an extension of the past.” What’s appropriate and possible for us at age 25 may not be at age 60. We continuously have to reconstruct our lives and reinvest ourselves. With each progressive stage of life we are challenged with the question, “What else can I do?” When we earnestly seek the answer to the question we continue to live. I love the motto of the Gerontological Society of America: “To add life to years, not just years to life.” Let’s keeping adding life to our years by focusing on the jobs we still have to do.
“Don’t let it be chiseled on your tombstone, ‘Died age 40, buried age 70.’”