Friday, October 24, 2008

How old is "old"?

How Old Is ‘Old.’?

A few years ago, two of the teenaged girls at Open Door Home in our city needed to interview an older person for a school assignment. Open Door is a welcome home , since 1927 for children whose parents cannot or will not care for them.
I, not quite 80 at the time, met the criteria for "older person" so the Director at Open Door (who happened to be my daughter, Beth) called me and asked if I would mind stopping by so the girls could interview me.
When I went to Open door Home, Beth introduced me to the girls. One of the girls was a 14 year old I will call "Sarah." Beth told me, in Sarah’s hearing, how proud she is of Sarah for making good marks in school. I congratulated Sarah and expressed interest so she immediately got her report card to show me. We had a nice visit.

When we started the interview, the first question Sarah asked me was a question usually reserved for people who have reached the century mark, "To what do you attribute living to such a long old age?"

Later when Beth was showing me out, she said she hoped the girls did not hurt my feelings by making such an issue of my "old age." Of course, Beth knew as well as I that it did not bother me.
When I lived in the Atlanta area, I was not as ancient as I am now but I often spoke to Senior Citizens groups on subjects related to aging as my undergraduate degree included a certificate in Gerontology.
One of the persons I love to quote when I speak to a civic or church group about "aging" is Madeline L’Engle. L’Engle said,"One of the nice things about growing old is you do not lose any of the other ages you have been." Wow! Think of that!
It is true. Like Sarah, I know what it was like to be 14 and think 30 is old. I know what it is like to be 30 and think 50 is old. I know what it is like to be 50 and think 80 is old. I know what it is like to be 80 and know that 80 and even 100 is just a number. I know also it is a number nearer the end of the counting . But at the end of the counting, as Christians we know a new day will dawn and the counting will start over.

We gather in church every Sunday to celebrate the truth that what we call "time" does not have the last word over what God calls eternity. What we call death does not have the last word over what God calls life.
I like to quote the poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore who said, "Death is not extinguishing the light, it is simply putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."

1 comment:

Carol said...

Okay - I followed your instructions and read this again. Now you need to add your poem about leaving the light on. Mother, you are such an excellent writer. I enjoy reading all your posts.