Sunday, April 1, 2012

The wisdom of age

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending the evening with two delightful old women.  When I say "old" it is because Marguerite was 91 and Gertrude, whose birthday we were celebrating, had just turned 100.  Old, however, did not describe anything but their age.

The phrase, "90 is the new 70," which is used to describe the changing reality of age, aptly describes these two women.  To look at them you'd never guess one was in her nineties and the other had just turned one hundred.  It was in speaking with them, however, that I realized that using the term "old" to describe them would be doing them a great disservice.

We had spent the afternoon at a celebration honouring Gertrude's milestone birthday.  There were many fitting tributes, speaking of her accomplishments and telling of her great service to the community.

That evening at dinner I was fortunate enough to sit next to Gertrude and have a long conversation just with her.  She was unafraid to speak of her loneliness, but she did so in the context of what it is like to grow old and not to elicit pity.  She spoke of how her perspective on life has changed, and how she realizes the importance of taking things more philosophically and less to heart.  She said she did have regrets, but she also understood that everything she had been through had contributed in making her who she is today, and she was grateful for all of it. 

Life is an incredible journey and, it seems, with each new phase we go through we are eager to get to the next... that is, until we are at what is commonly known as the last.  At that point what is called for is reflection into what each phase has meant, what we have learned and, really, just taking stock of it all as a whole.

Wouldn't it be more beneficial, though, to do this at each phase, instead of waiting until the very end to "put it all together?"  I think we would gain so much more from each phase if we were able to look back on the previous phase and, learning from its lessons, move on with that wisdom, to then begin learning from the next phase.  Our journey would be so much more meaningful if we stopped to reflect on where we are from time to time, appreciating how far we've come and how much knowledge we have gathered, instead of just pressing on as we usually do. 

It was quite amazing to speak to someone who has lived through a whole century.  It was easy to see what is meant by the the wisdom of age and it gave me a whole new perspective on how I should look at the next phase of my life.

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