The Lord loves me. I know this because I’ve been blessed with some pretty significant adversity of late. Significant in my estimation anyway. Among other things it’s been an opportunity to learn for me. And a chance for my family to practice patience and long-suffering. They really needed that. In the midst of this I had a birthday. One of those milestone ones like 18 or 21. This particular birthday actually comes with a little card to carry in your wallet. It’s kind of like the driver’s license you can get when you turn 16 but not as much fun. This one says essentially, “You’re now officially old, recognized by the government and everything. Carry this geezer card with you at all times.” Great. That got me to thinking about old age. And that got me to thinking about becoming decrepit, something I know a little bit about already.
Well, this is what I figured. There must be some sort of universal lesson that millions of us need to learn by becoming old. Think about it. If you live long enough you’ll eventually become old. If you’re old long enough you’ll probably know something about decline and disability. It must be part of the plan. Though for the life of me I can’t figure out what Heavenly Father was thinking. It seems backwards to me. Just as I’ve learned enough to be of some real use in the world my body goes south on me and I’m the one who needs help. Just when I know exactly what to do to make modern education meaningful and effective I have to retire from teaching early and before I’m ready. Wouldn’t it be better to get more powerful physically as we get wiser with each year? Once again I’m reminded that Heavenly Father’s thoughts are not my thoughts. I’m anxious to talk with Him about this. But not too anxious.
In the meantime I’d like to ask all of you with working body parts to lend a hand to old people. For one thing you can be pretty sure they hurt. I’m reminded of my husband’s sweet aunt Anne who once told me that she was frustrated with her doctor when she went to see him for relief from some sort of pain she was having. He looked at her and said in exasperation, “Good grief, you’re 80 years old! You’re gonna hurt.” Indeed.
So, hold that door for the old man with the cane and the nice white haired lady on the cart. It’s a sure bet that they hurt somewhere. And remember, “What goes around comes around.” Someday perhaps a young person will hold the door for you. I’ve always liked what Marjorie Hinckley, wife of a prophet, is quoted as saying, “Hold the door for everyone you meet. All are carrying a heavy load whether you can see it or not.”
I’d like to share something I’m grateful to have learned about this “old” subject. Tennyson said it eloquently in lines from his poem “Ulysses” which I was reminded of recently, and which means so much more to me now than when I first read it in my youth.
“It may be that the gulfs will wash us down.
It may be that we will touch the happy isles.
Much has been taken but much abides.
Though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,
What we are we are.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
I think Tennyson would make a good Mormon. He knows something about that enduring to the end thing. It’s not about sitting around I can tell you. That never yielding takes some grit.
My husband gets Tennyson. That’s one of the things I love about him. He’s a simple man but he’s not stupid. I know he understands because recently I read some of “Ulysses” to him to get his reaction. He gazed off in deep thought and then said pensively, “So let’s see if I understand. One of us is unable to stand or take a single step and is in a lot of pain, the other one is nearly blind, can’t hear worth beans and falls down all the time. Right?”
“Right,” I replied.
“So when are we going to Disneyland, Babe?” he said brightly.
I told you he understood.
So, we went to see if the gulfs would wash us down last month. Our kids had a rescue posse all organized even before we left. They thought we were crazy. We felt bad to worry them so much but then there were many times when we worried plenty over them, didn’t we? Anyway, Heavenly Father blessed us and we “touched the happy isle” instead of being washed away. We weren’t able to ride a single ride as in the old days but we couldn’t believe the beauty of the place. Flowers were blooming everywhere. A huge monarch butterfly actually landed on a perfect yellow rose right next to the bench where we were waiting for a parade. I don’t remember that ever happening before in the many times we’ve been to that “happiest of places." Maybe because we were always running off to do it all and didn't notice. Thank you Father for tender mercies once again!
Sometimes I think Heavenly Father has a soft spot for crazy old people. They must be part of the plan.