On Growing Older
My mother, now 88, lives in an Independent Living Center in my hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. She had a terrible fall last summer, and the consequences of that are that she cannot go home nor drive again. Her memory is slipping. It is very difficult for me to see this proud, independent woman grow frailer with each passing day.
It is a kind of irony that I would be called to the position of Minister to Senior Adults just about the time my family has to face caring for my mother. I tell my friends in SAGE: “How can I be a competent Minister of Senior Adults when my mother drives me nuts?” They laugh and remind me that this is divine pedagogy.
I do see older adults differently now than I did before my mother’s fall. When I go into a nursing home and see someone using a cane or walker, when I talk with someone whose hearing is limited and whose eyesight is failing, it reminds me of mom.
It also reminds me of how desperately I want to age with grace and with a sense of thankfulness no matter what befalls me before my life ends.
Do you know the prayer of the anonymous Mother Superior?
Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and someday will be old. Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from the craving of trying to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Keep my mind from the endless recitation of details and give me the smarts to get to the point. I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of other’s pains. Help me to endure them with patience.
But seal my lips on my own aches and pains–they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint–some of them are so hard to live with–but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil. Make me thoughtful, but not moody, helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seem a pity not to use it all–but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.”
A hearty “Amen” to that.