Wisdom is the sum of the reflective and reflexive understandings that settle deep in one’s soul after a long journey — a life adventure peppered with laughter, tears, fear, foolishness, joy, doubt, amazement and wonder. Pay attention to those who have traveled before you. Ask questions and listen with your whole being. Like echoes in a canyon, the lessons will continue whispering their meaning.
What follows is Part III of a five-part essay on health and wellness for seniors.
The beauty of this club, The Chronologically Superior Club, is that membership is open to all and it’s never too late to qualify.
Are you, or is someone close to you, CS qualified? Review the following criteria:
- Always takes time to look for the good in others
- Does not judge
- Perpetually intellectually curious
- Has learned to let go of both guilt and blame
- Accepts that the “Golden Years” are sprinkled with some lead shavings
- Actively advances personal health
- Has a positive life-perspective that grows stronger even as the body grows weaker
- Comfortably says, “I don’t know”
- Would rather laugh & giggle with children than whine & complain with adults
- Gives with grace and accepts with humility
- Knows that “Respect Your Elders” does not give anyone a license to be rude
- Nurtures joyful memories and looks forward to new adventures
- Committed to lifelong learning
- Knows that pleasure is more than the absence of pain
- Sees more with fading sight…hears more with fading hearing
- Embraces healthy ageing but fights growing old
CHECK BACK…THIS LIST WILL GROW
IF YOU HAVE SUGGESTED CRITERIA, PLEASE LET ME KNOW
My Mother, Mary: A Personal CS story…
After giving a speech to local civic leaders at Brooklyn College in September, 1997, I was approached by a woman from the audience, a distinguished looking woman from the Caribbean. She sensed, she said, that I was a very spiritual person. She wondered: what was the physical source of my spiritual nature? With an intuitive tilt of her head and the questioning furrow in her brow, she leaned forward and asked, “Was it you mother?”
The quick answer was, and is, “Yes.”
In the face of many challenges, my mother always saw beyond hardship and focused on the promise and beauty of life. Uprooted at age 50 from a town where she had lived all her life, she endured my father’s alcoholism, his decade of disability, his cancer, his death; the sad life and early death of her daughter; her own lingering battle with emphysema.
Some people would see her life as difficult, filled with disappointment and worry. Others would feel sorry for her and wonder how she got through the days. Some would pray for her as they counted their own blessings. They would view the cards she was dealt, shake their heads, and thank God they did not have to suffer those years.
Fortunately, the life they saw was not the life she lived.
Yes, of course she felt pain and heartache; but for every dark moment, she lived a thousand love-filled hours. For every misfortune, she saw a hundred reasons to rejoice in the treasures of life. For every physical pain, she found countless moments of bliss. For every fear she experienced today, she knew the promise of tomorrow.
Toward the end of her life, she needed the full-time attention of a nursing home. I remember visiting her one cold, rainy day in March 1995, a few months after she had settled in. I came into her room and saw her: lying on her side, shriveled from osteoporosis; still, a lovely, eighty-three-year-old lady. Recently awakened from her nap, but not having yet retrieved her teeth from the bedstand, she smiled at me and said, “My cup runneth over. I am the luckiest person alive. I have good people to take care of me, a nice place to live, and friends and family who love me.” And she meant every word. Broken and bleeding paper-thin skin, multiple fractures from too many years of medication, emphysema, living in a nursing home—and she believed she was the luckiest person on earth! This was the way she lived.
My brothers and I called her every day, usually in the evening, to see how she was feeling. One day I called about midmorning. She wanted to know why I was calling. I reminded her that I spoke with her just about every day. She said, yes, but why now? I explained that I would be away during the early evening hours and wanted to make sure I spoke with her today. She seemed couriously concerned that I had called when I did. She said she was tired and wanted to rest; would I please call her tomorrow? As always, we said, “I love you,” then goodbye.
That was our last goodbye.
That evening, my mother’s cousin called me to say that my mother had died peacefully around 7 PM—about the time I usually called. My heart was broken. I told my wife and our three children, and we held each other and cried. Later that night, I took off all of my clothes, sat in a hot tub of water, and howled at the moon till I could only whimper like a lost pup.
Three young women, attendants from the nursing home, came to the funeral—something they usually did not do. They wanted to tell me what happened after I last spoke with my mother. They said she took a nap, and when she awoke and saw all three of them in the room, she told them she was going to die later that day. They had never heard her speak like this; my mother was a very “up” kind of person. They all said, “Mary, you’re fine, you’re not going to die.” She said she was but it was okay. Earlier that day, she told him, she had seen my father, 19 years deceased; my sister, 21 years past; and her mother, 28 years gone. They came to her, held out their hands, and said it was time to go.
The young women said my mother was at peace as she told them this.
We should all live such a life, and die such a death.
Who are the CS folks in your life? What lessons are they teaching you? What lessons will you pass on to the the next generation?
Part IV: Caution – Your Workforce and Consumer Base Are Ageing
Part V: Summary – So What?