Lately, I have been hanging out with people more than forty years older than me, and I’m forty-eight. Imagine all they’ve seen; all they’ve touched, felt, and learned. Imagine all they’ve had to push through. Since it’s a hobby of mine, I wanted to talk mostly about their military service, but in every single case we circled back to basic life; children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, love, loss, and faith.
I am fascinated by what happens to us as we age. It’s ironic to me that our eyes slowly lose focus, but our vision becomes clearer. Our hearing fades, but we listen more intently. Age slowly replaces self-absorption with self-awareness.
Bruce is eighty-eight-years-old. He buried three wives. His first was shot to death in a murder-suicide. His second overdosed on drugs. And finally a third died of old age. I asked him what he thinks about when he thinks about all he’s lost. He answered my question with a question. “How can you really know happiness if you’ve never been sad? he said. “Losing is part of living.”
Paul is a ninety-year-old World War II veteran. I asked him about regret. He laughed off the question, “Nah, never think about that. Life is filled with choices. I made some and that’s it.”
Bob’s wife of sixty years just recently passed away. A picture of her dancing at a wedding is prominently placed in front of his chair. He stared at it for several quiet moments as if he were reliving their years in his head. Finally he whispered, “She loved to dance.”
You want to be blessed? Sit down with someone in the twilight of their life. There is treasure within your reach.
Bruce closed our sit-down with an interesting summary of his nearly nine decades. “Life is filled with good decisions and bad ones, ” he began. “You have to put them someplace. I organize them in compartments. They’re always there and I can revisit them occasionally, but I don’t have to. I’m content.”
There is a softening of the “greatest generation” — an ease of mind. It seems the complexities of life are an invention of youth. Is there pain? Yes, and you’ll get through it. Is there hate? Yes, and there’s so much love. Are there injustices, unfairness and rotten people? Yes, yes, and yes; and there’s also compassion, goodness, and strength. Ask someone who knows. Ask someone who’s been there. It may just change the way you look back and the way you look forward.