Part of incarnate life on planet Earth is aging. It doesn’t happen to all of us; some die young. But for those of us who avoid early death, it is inevitable.
My mother, who was brought up in aristocratic circumstances, used to say of various unavoidable human frailties, including aging, “It happens in the best of families.” So it does.
One evening when I was twenty, standing in line at a church supper, I became impatient with the old woman in front of me. She moved so slowly, fussed clumsily with her tray and utensils. “Oh, get on with it,” I thought. “I’m hungry.”
Then it hit. A chill went through me. I can still remember that moment of realization. Someday I will be old like that.
And now I am.
It’s shocking, really. It seems just yesterday I could see clients all day, mow my big lawn running barefoot behind a push mower, hike high in the mountains, dance for hours.
When something is inevitable, an important question is, “How can we handle it gracefully?”
I think one piece has to do with finding the line between accepting and giving up.
In my novel Never Again, Clara, on her eightieth birthday, seeks to climb high in the mountains to a place she loves. She stumbles, her heart races, her inner voice tells her she should turn back. But she does not, because she fears that if she does, she will never try again, and her walks in the mountains, which are her greatest joy, will be lost to her forever. So begins her story.
When we are injured or ill or aging, there comes a point when we will have less grief if we accept where we are, adapt to it, make peace with it. There is grace in that.
But where is that point? Ah, that is tricky. It can be too easy to say, “I can’t,” and give up, when perhaps a little more effort would gain more function, more good years. There is also grace in pushing through, trying harder, holding hope.
Of course, finding that line between accepting and giving up applies not only to aging, but to any situation that challenges us, at any age.