The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10
I heard yesterday that Harry Hart died just days short of his 100th birthday. He was related to me by marriage (my uncle’s wife’s brother) but I always knew him as Uncle Harry. He was a war hero, the second of eight children. I had been praying he would make 100 years because I heard he had wanted that.
I suppose that when life is suddenly – or not so suddenly – limited to sitting up in bed and occasionally sipping water, living to reach a special birthday is one of the few things we have to look forward to. His beloved Mildred passed away in 1995. Most of his friends have passed away.
Harry Hart is survived by just three of his seven siblings. (Please God, don’t let me survive my siblings.)
Another friend of mine – one of my heroes – has a freshly altered leg compliments of surgery to remove melanoma. I love this guy and he deserves this not at all. He writes that it makes him feel old which is funny to me because he’s in his 40s and yet I get it. Circumstances age us. But this is not the worst thing that has ever happened to him and he has already aged more than most of us deeply in his soul. And he is a better pastor for it. Or is that just something stupid we say when we try to make sense of things?
Aging sucks. Really it does. And yet if we are really, really fortunate, we get to live 70 or 80 years – or more – with extraordinary experiences and unspeakable joys. If we are really fortunate, we sustain a few crushing blows that miraculously do not paralyze us. Post-retirement can indeed be The Third (and most important) Age as Gwen Wagstrom Halaas suggests. But it’s not easy.
If we are really fortunate, we do not mind the eyeglasses or hearing aids or monthly trips to get the gray out. If we are really fortunate, there are more awesome days than not-awesome ones. If we are really fortunate, we stop living in the past and look to the future trying to figure out how to live well if we can’t walk as briskly or jump on one leg anymore. If we are really fortunate, we figure out how to love life from a hospital bed, if that’s what the future holds.
Is that really possible? I’m naive/optimistic enough to think so. It can be holy but when it hurts – a lot – physically and emotionally to grow older, it probably doesn’t feel holy at all.
Hang out soon with a person who feels old and ask about that. The guy who fixes my car randomly asked me to visit his wife’s great aunt in a nursing home recently and I thought it was a strange request. But I think I might do it.