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It was difficult to get up from bed this morning. My body was heavy, and my muscles were aching and strained. I am presently nursing a bad upper respiratory infection. Just last night, before going to bed, I felt alone and forsaken. I began to think of how difficult it is to care for myself by my lonesome. Slowly, my fears about growing old-alone- were creeping up on me again.
Old age. It does come to many of us at some point in our lives. Some grow old gracefully. Others fight it off with all sorts of chemicals, cosmetic surgery, dancing lessons, and whatever else it takes to keep their minds off wrinkling, changing bodies, and aching muscles and joints. Still, others who are not so fortunate become senile and, consequently, become the butt of jokes or the cause of irritation in some families: a burden.
Old age could be viewed as the twilight of our lives. Older adults could be seen as burdens. Yet, for those who see with the eyes of love, old age could well mean the golden years of our lives. People who have advanced in years have the luxury of memories. Most of them have the respect of the youth. The senior citizens are sought for their wisdom and counsel.
One of the realities of growing old that causes me some anxiety and frustration is that as we age, our minds seem capable of still doing much, yet our bodies already set so many limitations on us. Older adults feel they are not much older in spirit in their advanced years than when they were in high school, embarking on a new career, or being newly married.
For instance, I know I am not that old, but I know too that I am in my mid-thirties and thus am 35 years older than a child born today. That does not make me too young, either. Fortunately, I do not feel my enthusiasm and idealism about many things have waned. Maybe I am not hooked on the same activities as I was in my high school days, but I still find many of the activities I have engaged in the past worthwhile. The potential energy is still there. The willingness to explore and enjoy life as God wills it is still there. I feel pretty much like the same person. There seem to be more physical changes than changes in my psyche. I feel in my heart that I have not changed very much, but my body speaks a different language. Maybe in many instances, I have become even more effective.
Advancement in years has a way of telling us that we cannot perform and do all the things we used to. It is a painful reality. Our spirit is so willing, yet our bodies just do not cooperate.
I was told a story of an 84-year-old physician, a parasitologist who, to this day, sees patients in his house in Paco, Manila. He walks with difficulty because of the effects of diabetes on him. Yet when someone walks into his home with a digestive system problem, he manages to pull out of his drawers his notepads and types out a detailed prescription for his patients. The prescription does not only carry the drugs his patients must take. It carries point-by-point instructions on what the patient is allowed to eat. With his fingers, he pounds each of those manual typewriter keys to explain down to the last detail exactly what brand of crackers his patients may eat. He does not want to leave anything to chance. He goes by the old-fashioned way of requesting for particular tests to be done on specimens before prescribing an antibiotic. He abhors guesswork. It is amazing. Logically, we may be tempted to conclude that he is the one who could prescribe any broad-spectrum antibiotic easily. It seems he has them all at his fingertips. After all, we’d think he has been doing this type of work all his life. His guess is probably the most educated one if there is such a thing. But this man, Dr. Pedro Chanco Jr., does not guess. For him, his aching muscles and retirement from the hospital where he dedicated more than 35 years of his life do not stop him from doing what he loves most. He loves to help people and nurse them back to health. Nevermind his discomforts and difficulties. Nevermind his age or what people will say about him. He knows what he is doing. He loves what he is doing.
On the other hand, I cannot help but think of all those people whose minds do not remain that lucid at 84 years old. I cannot help but think of those people that never ever had a career to speak of, much less come back to in the confines of their own homes. So, there they are, sitting around a mahjong table. There they are confined to wheel chairs brought around and fed by young ones who could actually be doing something else other than give care to these chronologically advanced people.
Why then does God allow older adults to continue to grace our lives? Why does He decide for others to stay on earth past sixty? Why can’t God make everyone die when they can still care for themselves?
I do not have all the answers myself, but I can venture one. I know for sure that God is Good and God is love, and if He allows anything as seemingly dreadful as this to happen to us, we become better people in our giving of love and maybe even in our reception of love and care.
As for me, I must not dwell on my fears. Alright, maybe I have some difficulty breathing, and my mind is working several kilometers an hour, thinking that the worst is yet to come. But right here, right now, I see a challenge before me. I must hope. I must believe in God’s promise that He will never abandon me. It is a test of faith. A test of hope. A test of perseverance.
My runny nose will soon dry up, and I will be well on my feet again. I will help others believe as I believe that God loves me. He will not leave me. I will be alive when I am alive, and I invite others to do the same. One last thing, I do not think I will grow old. I will just be experientially advantaged. So will you. Do you believe?
Jesus Our Light