When I turned 50 one of my friends sent me a t-shirt that said, "50 is the new 30!" I suppose that now that I am SIXTY, and proudly so, I should retire that t-shirt....NOPE! The point to me of that t-shirt is not about, oh phoeey, I'm 50! No, the point is that even as you move through life to different years...16, 21, 30...40, 50, 60, etc. etc. even if your body becomes old, it's essential not to let your spirit become old, dulled by the hardest parts of life!
I do NOT claim to always master this elusive art. Sometimes these days my spirit feels even older than sixty. The point is that on the days when I am able I keep my spirit young. I do my best to never say, "I'm too old, I can't learn new things." I NEVER want to say that!
A dear friend in her late 80's told me, "You're as old as the newest cell in your body, and your cells renew every 5 seconds." She was taking computer classes to better communicate with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She also was taking Spanish because she enjoyed the language.
My beloved Mama made over 80 quilts and sent them to Iraq in her 80's. My nephew was stationed there and he would hand them out to children on the streets, or soldiers having a tough time. She lived to be 95, and at that stage she could walk no longer, but she would sit in her wheelchair, put her feet down and move from place to place.
I love that image of her, she needed that wheelchair, her body was too worn out to support itself anymore. Yet still, she found ways to move herself where she wanted to go!
Esther, (can't remember her last name) went back to college in her 80's! Yes, that's right, a Freshman in college in her 80's. When people would question why she would do that she responded quickly, "Why not? My children are raised. My husband has passed. Education is something I can take with me when I die. Why wouldn't I want more of it, especially now!"
I have been so richly blessed with examples of women who continued living to the best of their ability until they died...and I believe that our spirits do NOT die. They just keep growing and progressing when we pass.
My favorite example of a man who did not let age, or the progression of cancer destroy his youthful spirit is my beloved Papa. Two weeks before he died, (he was bedfast at this point) a friend said, "Wendell, aren't you tired of fighting? You've lived such a wonderful life. Don't you just wish it was over?" My Papa, and I can hear him in my mind roused himself and sang, "I LOVE LIFE, AND I WANT TO LIVE!"
With all of these remarkable examples I wish to share one more. This one will make me a trifle tearful so it's a good thing I'm not writing this on paper. My beloved Nyle died when he was 54. In his very last days, when we knew that he was dying he was still making us laugh, still exhibiting the youthful spirit that was an integral part of him. Our daughters brought a notebook and pen with them to the hospital to record any last words or messages. The oldest said, "Papa, is there anything that you need or want to tell us?" His response was, "No, I don't have anything to say." Pause, pause..."Well write that down!"
I love life, and I want to live. I know that there will be many more hills to clamber over. I know that there will be dark days that threaten to eclipse my joy. Yet I will do my darndest to remember yet another elderly man that I met in the dark days of my breast cancer. He was dying, it was obvious just looking at him. He gave me the brightest grin and said, "Every day above ground is a cause for celebration." That line means a lot more when you're facing down the dark demon of cancer! Yet, in his brief words he helped me understand that life is about more than merely surviving. It's about THRIVING! It's essential to find joy in even the hardest days. (Feel free to remind me of that the next time I forget)!
I'm SIXTY! I do NOT wish to live like I'm dying. That is a foregone conclusion. In the wondrous words of my Nyle honey, "Live like you're living!"