THE DEER WHICH TORMENT AND DELIGHT
There are some people who don’t talk about aging enough and some people who talk about it too much. And some of those who speak with authority about aging are not there yet. Of course we all know that with every passing minute each one of us is getting older. But that is not the common frame of reference when one today speaks of aging. They are most probably speaking of someone in the 70 plus category. Several months ago I started getting weekly aging platitudes on Facebook by someone who was identified as a well known author. I had never heard of her but that’s okay, there are lots of famous people I’ve never heard of. And since I am now firmly ensconced in the “aging” period of life I am trying to learn all about it and am open to various opinions. When three of the posts from the famous author rubbed me the wrong way I decided to google her and learned that she had two young children. She was another example of an advice giver whose “words of aging wisdom” were not based on actual experience. I deleted my name from her list of post recipients.
Had lunch with a good friend recently. We went to the same grade school and high school. It was fun to reminisce. We talked about the different closed doors that are before us as we go through life. It is up to us to decide which door to try and open, which offers the most rewarding opportunities. How many doors should we try and in what sequence.
When I graduated from Cornell there were many work opportunities in the nursing field. Cornell did an excellent job of preparing us for job hunting. They helped us to set goals and objectives as we began the search. I still remember in a class given by the Dean her thoughts on knowing yourself and your capabilities. She encouraged us to aim high but to make sure that we were grounded in the skills that the job required. Another way of saying don’t go through that door unless you are prepared to deal with the other side. The doors to choose from do not end when we get older. There may not be as varied and there may not be as many of them, but they are still there.
In the mid 80’s I went through the chaplaincy training program at Holy Cross hospital. This led to a job in the chaplaincy service at Georgetown Hospital. The staff was a mixture of ordained religious and lay chaplains. I loved the work but when the decision was made that the lay staff had to work the same hours as the ordained staff I knew I would have to give up this job I loved. Working nights and weekends was tough. I wanted to be home with my family. I gave my resignation. As that Cornell dean had taught years before “know yourself and your capabilities”.
We belong to an extraordinary church, St, John Neumann in Reston. Being part of an inclusive meaningful church is important to us and we have that in St. John’s. Its mission statement is “ All are welcome” and that is the cornerstone of this church. We searched a long time for such a church. Our wonderful church offers a plethora of activities. It is a nice problem to have and we have to choose the ones most meaningful for us. Since 2001 we have participated in one of its bible study programs. This has opened the door to new friends and we have gained much from the course material.
We moved to our present home in 1990. About ten years ago we put in a lovely patio in our backyard. I enjoy gardening but the bending that entails has gotten harder for me. I now focus on patio container gardening. It has been fun consulting with a very knowledgeable young friend on appropriate plants and their care. The deer like to wander through our yard , sometimes laying down in the vinca, sometimes munching on our bushes and the patio plants. The negative is when the deer decide that their daily diet needs to include my prize hibiscus or the leaves from the hydrangea cutting, a gift from a friend, which I have nurtured into a healthy bush, I find myself not thinking too kindly of these majestic animals, but then there are times I am so moved by that same majesty.
What is aging? It is a process we all go through. It is life. When I was at Georgetown I became friendly with Sr. Jeanne. I was touched and moved by her kindness and her quiet spirituality. She radiated a inner peace. We were contemporaries. The patients loved her. When I left Georgetown we remained friends. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died shortly after, I was devastated. Her life was being cut short, there would not be much time for aging. Her funeral service was at the hospital in the late afternoon. It was the same day as we were to be entertaining two of Jerry’s biggest clients who were in the United States for a brief visit. Jerry understood that I had to go to the funeral. Jeanne was my friend. She was so quiet and because of the timing of the service I was concerned not many of the hospital staff would attend. I need not have worried. I got to the service about 15 minutes early and could barely get in the door. Doctors, nurses, various technical staff , house keeping were all represented. I learned a lot from my friend Jeanne. It is not how long we age but rather how well we use the time we have, how well we use our God given gifts and abilities.