I was speaking recently to an elderly woman. She had just gone through a gruelling week. She had been to the funeral of a good friend’s spouse, another friend had had a stroke and a third good friend was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. After describing these three tragedies in detail she paused for a moment and said grimly, “Growing old is no picnic.”
I remember visiting a nursing home when I was a teenager. It felt surreal seeing so many people with such broken and aging bodies; it felt horrible. I wondered, “Is that what I have to look forward to?” I think that was one of the reasons that I decided as young adult to work in a nursing home. It was a question for God, “There has got to be some hope there, I hope I can see it.”
Working closely with people in a nursing home for several years and coming to love the residents was an eye-opening experience for me. There was more life there than I imagined, even in the midst of a lot of suffering.
Where is God in the picture of old age in your mind? How do you see aging people relating to God in the challenges they are facing? I am continuing my sermon series on “Aging Gracefully” this week, hope to see you there!
This week’s prayer: Give us compassion and a spirit of learning, so that we can listen carefully to the wisdom of the very old.
I was raised by my grandmother. She was in her 70’s when we lived with her. I remember looking at the photographs on the bookcase. There was one picture of a row of lovely young women; my grandmother and her sisters in their early twenties. If I asked her, she would tell me which one she was. I certainly couldn’t guess; the young woman in the photograph bore no resemblance at all to my Oma (our name for our grandmother) with the long white hair rolled up in a bun.
I knew that everyone grows old, and I knew that I would one day be old, but it seemed to be some sort of magic, that one could be transformed from a young person to an entirely different looking person.
Well, I’ve passed the mid-point now between the age I was then, and the age my grandmother was; and I see it isn’t magic! It’s a slow process of aging that changes us. Perhaps that is even more surprising, in some ways, because it creeps up on us so gradually!
God created us as people who grow old. We change on the outside, and we change on the inside too. The spiritual challenges of youth are exchanged for the spiritual challenges of our older years. In our next four Sundays we are going to be examining these challenges. This sermon series, I hope, will help the younger people think about the future, and understand and connect with the seniors. For seniors, I hope that raising these issues can lead to reflection, conversations in our community, and an exchange of wisdom.
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us to grow old gracefully, faithfully, prayerfully. Amen.