Just before the pandemic of 2020 shut down the world, my family celebrated my 80th birthday at a local restaurant. My gifts included a beautiful album that reviewed my years with photos and notes from my children and grandchildren.
The next day, two friends surprised me with a seafood dinner and a gift of 80 roses! Through the years, my husband and I have received other gifts as well. But they were intangible gifts – and perhaps not as welcome. The gifts of aging are intangible, but ageless.
The Gift of Patience
When I tell my husband “Lunch is ready,” he says, “What was that?” When I tell him who called on the phone, I get the same response. Even with hearing aids, he misses the first parts of sentences. To compound the problem, my voice has weakened.
But the good news is that we force each other to be patient. I know I’m going to have to repeat whatever I say. And he’s learning that he should take a moment to think before he responds. Because if he pauses, he often deciphers my words.
Bill is five years my senior, and I can see the difference this makes. He’s forgetting names more frequently. He takes longer to climb stairs. But I’m patient with him because I know I’m just a few steps behind him.
As Christians, we pray to develop the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Yet so often we chafe against the very things that water that fruit tree. While we may not enjoy the effort it takes to cultivate an orchard, we can delight in the fruit that develops. In this case – patience.
The Gift of Compassion
Anyone who has lived several decades has survived losses – losses of loved ones, losses of jobs, losses of relationships. Losses hurt. You grieve. How can the world go on as usual? People are pumping gas. Laughing at jokes. Shopping. But you feel numb. Time heals, but for some losses, it takes much time.
Our youngest child, our only daughter, returned to her heavenly father just a few hours after her birth. In more recent years, my four siblings have died along with two of my husband’s three. And his third sibling, confined to a nursing home that allows no visitors, suffers from dementia.
A person never really “gets over” the loss of loved ones. You just learn to go on. You survive. And as you survive, you feel greater compassion for others experiencing loss. You mourn with those who mourn because you know how much it hurts. You’ve received the gift of compassion. Now you pass it on.
The Gift of Perspective
Times are bad. We wonder if end times have arrived. And we’ve had a lot to ponder during the pandemic. But as you get older, you realize that things have been bad before. I’m sure Europeans and Asians felt the same way during the Black Plague. And we’ve had health scares before – scarlet fever, polio, tuberculosis. Diseases for which we lack inoculation wreak havoc.
But as you age, you find you’ve survived your share of challenges. You mellow. And you take more of a “this too shall pass” approach. Yes, things are bad, but God is on His throne. We wait and pray and work for the good. We wash our hands, practice social distancing and accept the vaccine. And we trust. “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Don’t be too proud to accept help along your journey. Wear those hearing aids. Audiologists tell me if a person does not wear hearing aids when they need them, they lose word discrimination. That means that even if a hearing aid provides the sounds of speech, the brain no longer interprets them. Conversation adds sparkle to life. Don’t miss out on it.
Be patient with spouses and loved ones. After all, you’re on this journey together. So, hold hands and walk on, adjusting to one another’s pace.
Talk to others about your grief; accept their gestures of comfort. Let them sit with you and pray with you. Join a grief support group. Seek professional help if you feel you would benefit. Share your perspective with others by telling them how you’ve survived challenges by God’s grace.
Unwrap those gifts of aging. They add beauty, not only to your life, but they bless the lives of others as you pass them on. Your family and friends will love you all the more for your patience and compassion. And your perspective offers hope to a generation challenged by the pandemic. Things may not be perfect, but they may be perfectly fine – if we embrace the gifts of aging.