I visited a hospital twice this week: first to see the newborn son of my handyman and then to sing to my ninety year-old, dear friend as he drew his last breaths. Odd as it may seem to the reader, both were joyous events. The first because I glimpsed the future in the face of that baby boy as his teary mother cradled him close. The second because I reflected on all of the lives touched and forever changed by my friend of 35 years.
If you’ve read my previous musings, you know that I value age and all the baggage it bears. The elderly have had their past which is why I encourage counselors to help them navigate their future. With them, you begin with a ‘body of work’ in front of you. It is your task to sift through their years like a forensic scientist and discern where their real value lies ahead. Even their dimming eyes, faltering voices and time-worn skin are clues. Where do they carry their real pain or their gifts? Their stories will warn you where not to go in your own lives and show you how to seek joy on roads that you have not yet taken. If you are lucky, your own journey will last as long as theirs. So listen and watch. They are you, someday.
The poet, May Sarton, wrote this about aging: “The trouble is, old age is not interesting until one gets there. It is a foreign country with an unknown language to the young and even to the middle-aged.” So, lets learn the language as we go in hopes of discovering what lies for us all. . .beyond the bend.
In closing my final blog for the ACA, I would like to add this: If I were given the choice to hear one final, favorite melody in my life, I would not choose some current song downloaded on my iPod. I would ask to hear Chopin played on a Steinway grand by well-seasoned hands. That would be bliss.
(Helen Hudson writes a blog on ‘Youth, Aging and not going gentle into that good night,” at http://helenhudsonhere.com).
Helen Hudson is a counselor and 20 year member of the ACA. She is also the author of "Kissing Tomatoes," and speaks around the country on the importance of caring for the elderly, particularly those with Alzheimer's, with compassion.