October 15, 2010

A Crown Of Splendor

As we were led to our table at the restaurant, we passed a long table where a family was celebrating a birthday. By the markings on the cake, it was the gentleman's 86th birthday. He was thin, maybe a bit frail, but in good spirits and, as far as I could tell, able to get around without help.

"Uch," my friend said, "I'd hate to live that long."

"If you had your health, why not?" my husband asked.

She shook her head. And her husband agreed with her.

I couldn't find words. My grandfather died before I was born. How I wish he had lived to be 86. My cousin died when she was only 36. How might another fifty years added to her life have changed the lives of her daughters?

I don't decide who lives how long. God does, and I don't question His wisdom. But sometimes I wonder...

And I pity my friends. Where they see wrinkles, I see wisdom.

When Grandma was 86, she wrote this essay. I had the privilege of reading it at her memorial service last year. Today would be Grandma's 90th birthday. She died last year, just before Independence Day.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. -- Proverbs 16:31

Old Age
By Phyllis Kirkpatrick

I believe old age is a gift from God. Now that I am 86, I can be the person I have always wanted to be. I don't mean my physical body! I despair the bags under my eyes and the wrinkles on my face -- to say nothing of the sagging underarms! But I no longer agonize over those things.

I would never trade my wonderful life now for my former black hair and thinner figure. I have my wonderful, loving family, and many good and faithful friends.

As I have aged, I have become more kind to myself and less critical of my faults. I no longer blame myself for taking that cookie or buying that silly knickknack. I feel entitled to overeat once in a while, and to be extravagant occasionally.

I've seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon, before they understood the great freedom that comes with old age. Whose business is it but my own if I read a book I am wrapped up in until 4 a.m. and then sleep until noon? Or if I listen to favorite golden oldies from the 50's instead of the latest so-called music?

I go to the pool in my old-fashioned one-piece bathing suit, stretched over my bulges, and ignore the pitying glances of the bikini set.

I know l am forgetful sometimes, but some things are better forgotten anyway, and I can remember the important things when I need to.

Sure, over the past 50 years my heart has been broken. How can a heart not break when it loses a beloved husband of 34 years at the too-early age of 57? Or even when a loved dog gets killed by a car. Or a beloved granddaughter who dies so suddenly much before her time. Of course hearts will break, but that is what gives us compassion. A sterile heart, never broken, cannot know the joy that having loved and lost can bring.

So I feel blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn white and to have laugh wrinkles on my face, and I can say yes to getting old and staying positive and optimistic.

You care less what other people think, and you have earned the right to be wrong sometimes. I know I am not going to live a lot longer, but while I am still alive, I will not waste time lamenting what might have been, or worrying about what will be. My motto now is: Life is short, so eat dessert first!

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