A picture is worth a thousand words. ~Unknown
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that does not mean we are ready to fully embrace its message. That was the case when I first saw this picture of an elderly couple as it hung on a store wall many years ago. It caught my eye but not knowing why, I passed by it. I was there to buy a card and a gift for my husband. The card was the easy part, but the gift was another matter. As I continued to shop, I kept circling back to this picture. Finally, after gazing at it several times, only to force myself to get back to my agenda, I took it down and held it. Then I knew: this was what I was to buy. But why, I thought? The image didn’t relate to us. We were not that old.
Undeniably, we were getting older [in our 50’s]. While wrinkles were beginning to line my face, our young granddaughters were teasingly referring to my husband as ‘Grandpa with little hair [on his head].’ These external changes, however, were not preventing us from living life as usual. Our personal Aging issues simply were not on our on radar screen yet. What we knew about Aging was in reference to others. We had watched family members and dear friends grow old over the years. We had celebrated and appreciated priceless times of being with them: times of laughter and joy, times of being on the receiving end of their years of wisdom and genuine love. We had grieved with, and for, them as they transitioned through many losses including their health, hearing, mobility, independence, friends, spouses and then eventually, their own mortal life. While I was clear that this picture was depicting the story of the elderly we had known, loved, and carried in our hearts, I sensed the message ran deeper.
As I wrapped this gift, I wondered, “had I made a mistake in choosing it for my husband?” I took courage and considered the deed was done. I was surprised when, without thought, the words flowed from my pen to the card: I am blessed to know that we will be ‘Growing Old Together.’ Thankfully, he received the sentiment of these words as explanation enough for this rather different kind of gift, as well as a blessing of my love for him. Did we really know what it would be like for us to Grow Old Together? Not hardly.
The image of this elderly couple still hangs on the wall of my husband’s home office/TV room. For many years it was a silent reminder that like those who have gone before us, we would become ‘elderly’ someday [if we were fortunate]. Its message, no longer silent, has become personal and continues to deepen as we Age. Last spring when my husband was hospitalized and diagnosed with heart problems, this image spoke volumes. The reality that I could lose him amplified the priceless gift of ‘Growing Old Together.’
We are not designed to grow old alone. As innate social beings, we need others and others need us to live into the fullness of the life we have been given. Growing Old Together with Soul-loving, caring, supportive family, friend, spousal and/or community relationships is not optional; it is a necessity.
As we enter this Holiday Season, I give thanks for the elderly that have gone before us; for my husband’s choice to attend carefully to his health; and for all of you. May your Holiday celebrations be filed with an abundance of Soul Smiles and Soul Hugs. May we continue to learn what it means to be Soul Alive while Growing Old Together.