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Day by day we may fail to notice the pages of our lives continue to turn. Little wonder that it is not unusual to be surprised as birthdays seem to come faster as the years and decades pass by. Perhaps that is also because there is much about aging that we do not acknowledge or recognize even though it is being studied more than it was once. Our life expectancy has increased significantly in the last 50 years. That is truer if we are blessed to be able to access healthy dietary needs and maintain some level of exercise. Yet there is still much for each of us to learn and add to the whole of what is discovered.
If you talk to many seniors, most will tell you the years seem to roll by faster each decade. From the mid-70’s onward my life and yours (whatever your age) was punctuated by the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic. Most of us live with the aftereffects of that time whether we were ill with the virus or not. Our lives were altered in many ways. Getting back to “normal” was not as quick or easy as we expected and we were aging in the midst of it as well and trying to gain healthcare for non-related virus things that kept cropping up.
I watched as the 80 sign ahead got closer and closer. And then before I could have guessed, it was here. Most of our family were able to come help celebrate the occasion and just left us hours ago to go back to their jobs, schools, and life in other places. The warmth of memories of the past gained some pages over the weekend as new updates on our stories were shared in the cozy atmosphere of our living room after dinner, playing games, or sharing in snacks. We heard about the latest news and resurrected talents of music and poetry together as well. Then, all too soon each of us was pulled back into the lives we are living apart from one other while the pages keep turning.
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My daughter and two granddaughters got to meet a few of my close friends over a lovely tea that added to their understanding of my life and gave faces to the people they hear me mention. It also added texture to the stories about them I share with my friends. What a blessing.
It was a time to reflect on what defines us and be reminded of powerful truths as we shared with one another.
“Our dreams reveal to us the basic truth of life: years are biological; the spirit is eternal. The number of our years do not define us. There is in the human being a life force that never dies. It is the life force that proves to us that age does not fossilize us. Deep down where our souls live, we stay forever young.”Joan Chittister
Within the short time our family was together, I was asked many questions about what stands out to me, who influenced me most, who my mentors through life were, and more. The questions came in times when we were all present as well as times when I was one-on-one with family members from 18 to 57. It was hard to condense what came to mind with each question as I paused to recognize that big number of 80 and my responsibility to share whatever insights I had gained to this point with those coming after me.
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In response to a grandchild’s question, I shared that those who were mentors or influenced me most did so by how they lived life and their character more than any knowledge they shared. That was what translated their lived experience into the values they formed and I knew to be true by how they lived. From them I learned the importance by being slow to judge and quick to remember that I was only seeing a fraction of the person in a moment where the temptation to judge was nudging me to do so.
In response to another question about sharing a memory of my life they did not already know I told a story from second grade in a one-room schoolhouse and I chose to go with a friend to the dinner after a funeral next door and spend time with her and her family. No cell phones gave me access to let my mother know why I was not getting off the bus and how much trouble I was in for worrying my mother. The idea I was enjoying the dinner with family after a funeral brought more than a few chuckles around the table.
Over a coffee date with another grandchild in college who wonders if a gifting and passion of hers will ever be part of her life since it is not a part of her major and the trajectory of her current path. I reminded her that if we have been given a gift we need not fear when God opens the door for it to bloom and grow. It may happen many years later and I reminded her I did not begin writing on this site until my 70’s and published my book at 75 even though I had dreamed of being a writer since childhood. I encouraged her to be patient as her path would add to the richness of how those giftings might develop and be used later.
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I reminded another that it was important to remember that our words matter and have power. We never know when our last interaction with someone might be no matter our age or theirs. If you never see them again, how will those words impact them if they are spoken carelessly or without wisdom? How do you want them to remember you? Do you want to live with regret because you failed to show them you valued them or to say how you loved them?
My words were snippets of what I am still discovering and not the whole of who I am, how I became her, and am still becoming.
“We do not have the right to give up growing just because age is assumed to have eclipsed the possibility. But that means that we must be willing to rethink all the ideas that have kept us bound until this moment.”Joan Chittister
For now, I will continue to discover each page as it turns and while writing other things and series here, I will periodically share the discoveries I want to add. What I hope is that it will encourage you to keep on discovering more about your own pages as well.
Photo by Pam Ecrement