My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August. I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”
Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.
But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.
Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.
But time has passed and we are slowing down. We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.
With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.
Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life. I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren. Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.
Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.
Shakespeare said it well:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.
Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities. Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids. Hoping to make friends.
Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies. What excitement those first years of marriage brought. Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills. For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.
Middle age came. Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less. The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together. For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls. However, I began to realize my body was aging. I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.
Now old age has come. This body refuses to do what it once did. Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did. My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip. Still, there are joys in this stage.
I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise. Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen. Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband. Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie. There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.
Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one. Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain. Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play. Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me. Thankful for the hot shower.
A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less. Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.
Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. He found that:
“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”
So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:
Enjoy each moment. Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times. This day, this moment in time will not come again. Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.
As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
May my last chapter be my best!