Friday, August 13, 2010

Length of Days

"Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding." Job 12:12

While grocery shopping with my children recently, I was greeted by an elderly friend from daily Mass. After I stopped to converse with him a bit about the never-ending growth of my children and the frequency of my grocery store visits, we parted ways and my family and I continued with our errand.

As we gathered up the groceries, my fourteen-year-old son told me that he felt sorry for me because all of my friends are elderly. I agreed with him that it seems to be true that most of my friends and acquaintances are of an older generation, we laughed about it a bit and continued on with our chore. But upon further reflection, I focused on the fact that my son was taking pity on me for something of which I am actually quite grateful.

Many years ago, before Paul and I were married, I worked as a nursing home food service director. At that time and in that place, my opinion of the elderly was something along the lines of that held by my son. The residents for whom I worked were usually quite cross, always complaining about the food and my staff and challenging me beyond what my capabilities were at that time in my life. I was fearful of those who could no longer comprehend the realities of life, and saddened by those who could no longer perform the functions of daily living such as feeding and dressing themselves. I viewed old age as a fearful and miserable time.

But as I age, and with the passing of my own parents, I often feel like an orphan in need of the guidance that only an older and wiser generation can provide to me. Because my work and my family life keep me surrounded by babies and youth, it is actually quite refreshing to spend some time in the company of those whose demands on me are quite simple-usually a few kind words and a smile are all they need to bring a little sunshine to their day, and that is something that I can easily accomodate. My elderly friends who attend daily Mass have become a type of surrogate parents to me and I am very grateful for their presence in my life.

I have met so many wonderful elderly people who attend daily Mass with me and I am moved by the constancy of their faith and uplifted by the fact that whatever stage of life I am currently in, they have been there before me and have survived it, no matter how difficult it might have been, and they continue to smile and pray and love, and so I know that I too, will survive any difficulties that beset me and I will continue to be able to smile and pray and love.

Recently, one of my elderly friends shared a most interesting story with me. I had never met his wife as he always attends daily Mass alone, so I was surprised when he told me that he and his wife attend a bible study at her church. I boldly asked him what church his wife attended. He answered that she was Presbyterian and that this month they would be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. "Wow," I thought, "forty-five years together, each maintaining a separate religion and continuing to remain faithful to their views is an outstanding accomplishment!" Then
he shared something even more astonishing with me. He said that two of his sons are Presbyterian pastors and he is as proud of them as any father could be. "When we get together, we have some very interesting conversations," he said. "And after a couple of bottles of wine, the conversations become even more interesting!" By sharing this story with me including the obvious joy and pride that he felt, he witnessed to the faithfulness required in the vocation of marriage, and I am blessed to carry his story in my heart.

I pray that as the shadow from my own length of days grows, I too, will bring an essence of joy and pride to a younger generation, encouraging them by my example of a life lived well and a faith lived deeply.


  1. Not bad. i'ts not so anxious to put all other matters behind before God.

  2. I have met so many wonderful elderly people. I too hope that I can be as wise and kind as they are. And set a good example too! Love that story about that man married to a Presbyterian woman for 45 years and their sons!! How cool! What love must be in that family.

  3. I love the story you share here,not only about the elderly, but about the couple of 45 years. How I would love to share wine with them too and listen to them tell me about their love and respect of one another.

    The verse from Job and the picture you chose for this post are just perfect!
    Thank you so much for this, it is a treasure!

  4. This is a lovely post, Anne. We learn so much from those older than us. How does wisdom get passed down if we are cut off from our elderly? That is one of the losses of our move from extended families to nuclear ones. I hope that as Donnie and I grow older and our grandchildren grow up that we will remain an extended family as we are right now (although, yikes, Donnie and I are now the older generation -- that is scary, as Donnie's sister noted at his mother's funeral).

  5. Anne~You are a beautiful writer. Thank you for sharing these wise words. I especially love the beauty of you carrying this man's story in your heart. I love when God helps us step out of our box and find him in the lives of others. God Bless you and all of your lovely friends!

  6. What you have written here is so true. I often find guidance and inspiration in the older generation (in Church and outside Church)

    God Bless you for noticing and being thankful for those "gifts" around you!

  7. Ditto your sentiments! The little chapel at our church is always full at daily mass, but I'm usually the youngest person there by about 20 yrs there (unless I have my kids with me). Sometimes I wonder why there aren't more people my age at Mass - is it because most of the people of our generation are working? The people who are there seem so full of joy and peace and so happy to see me and my children. They have faith to share with younger generations; I hope their prayers are heard!

  8. It took me losing my parents to truly 'get it' too. Blessings to you.

  9. A beautiful, beautiful post. I agree with all of the above! Our 'elderly' friends far outnumber people we're friendly with our own age. As H and I journey on our spiritual road, we have less and less in common with some people and more things in common with others, These 'others' just happen to be in the 70 and above bracket. We find in common our love of the Sacrements, devotions, Latin Mass, etc. Thanks again for the post. You've said it much better than I. k

  10. Sadly here in the UK the concept of a wider family is slowly dying out. There are areas in our towns and cities where many elderly people live alone; their children having moved on for pastures new with their own young families. Elderly parents are not visited or taken care of.

    God bless.

  11. It was in one of Fr. Benedict Groeschel's books that I first read it is normal for there to be a heavier mix of elderly in church. In fact, he celebrated it. He pointed out that it is just a normal matter of aging that as we get older we get wiser --- the body accumulates more experiences and relates them. The elderly see and understand the importance of faith more than most young --- and that is a normal thing.
    I too can recall (in earlier years) feeling out of place at daily mass, and the time someone came over to me and thanked me (a "young" person) for being there. It made me feel strange at that time, and perhaps it was. But like Fr. Bennie, I celebrate that there are so many elderly people still getting wiser, and I pray the young get there sooner.