As we age, little creaks and groans and, later, bigger failures of the human flesh remind us that our time on earth is limited. Many of us try to seek immortality through a wide variety of activities, enterprises, and relationships. Think of all the grey-haired celebrities in the news that sky dive and participate in extreme sports or world-record breaking adventures. Consider the real life stories and movies that show one person’s obsession to make a mark on the world by stamping the family name on towering buildings, schools of higher education, hospitals, and more. Reflect for a minute on the age-old story of men who trade in 15- and 20-year marriages for a trophy wife and a sports car. Women are playing their part, too. Several prime-time television shows have depicted the trend of older women, cougars, hooking up with younger men. The old adage, “You’re only as young as you feel,” was taken to a different place by a one-time friend who used to say, “You’re only as young as the woman you feel.” He’d say this with a lecherous grin and a waggle of bushy brows. While it may be humorous in the moment, the statement is very representative of our attempts to remain forever young. How well do all these ways of feeling young really work? Is it even possible to feel young as age advances?
I’m not necessarily one to speak about the end game of life. I’m not there yet, although I have advanced to an age where I’m getting glimpses into it. I have seen the affect time has had on my parents and I am beginning to experience a few of the telling signs that bodies really do break down over time. I am also beginning to see how colleagues and friends begin to fight that battle. The younger ones, whose muscles don’t quite bounce back from strenuous activity, first ignore and then punish their bodies, trying to believe that it isn’t true. Half a generation older and they are clearly dying hair, applying anti-aging products, and getting minor surgeries to correct the damage previous punishment wreaked. Another half a generation later and reading glasses are pulled out, fewer women are wearing high heels, and the jokes begin about … oh, yeah, memory. I should start worrying – and sometimes do. Why then am I usually embracing life more fully than ever before while still accepting the limitations of my age? Why am I growing increasingly more comfortable with my life while others are struggling more?
I’m not sure I can answer my own questions very well. I do know two things are making a huge difference in my life. The first is my family. I am so grateful for my husband, my grown children, my children’s spouses, and the wonderful friends they bring into our family circle. Each of these people adds something special to my life and each has shown me something of what true immortality is. I can realistically imagine an end of life scenario that is neither pretty nor easy and honestly look forward to it because I know that my family will be there for me. Not because it is their duty, but because they love me. I know how they love me now – regardless of the frequency of phone calls, emails, or visits – and I know that they know how I love them. I fully enjoy them when I can. I listen to them recount the joys and sorrows, trials and successes, hopes and fears of life. I allow them space to be the people they are all the while encouraging them to continue investigating the people they were designed to be. I just love them, all the time.
The second is my relationship with God. For a long time, I lived my life without God. Once He woke me up and I started to live with Him, instead of without, I could see my life through His eyes. I could see the same struggles I now see in others – striving to make that mark, searching for immortality in conquests, and youth in adrenaline rushes and hormone driven experiences. And I could clearly see how that was leading to my death – my emotional and spiritual death for certain, and skirting physical death in many ways. I could see how my efforts were actually separating me from those I loved, distancing me from those who might have loved me well, and creating opportunities for me to put my life at risk.
Since I’ve been connected to God, He has taught me how to love my family even when I didn’t really know how it felt to be loved that way. His patience, love, and encouragement, showed me how to be that for my family. Now they, in turn, are loving me in a way I couldn’t have imagined before. All that I was looking for, striving for, trying to force, are now surrounding me. I love my life, more and more, even as my physical self becomes less and less. I think that may be because I see immortality, not in the flesh of living forever, but in the love that keeps me forever young.