Autumn comes with a lesson, one so profound that it needs be repeated every year. Life is brilliant and beautiful and most especially so, when in its decline.
Why then, have I found myself vehemently resisting growing older?
A fiery red leaf in its final pulses of life cries out, “I am beautiful, I am at my finest.”
We clamor for spring, for that which is fresh, new, and energetic, but isn’t it Fall, all decked out and boastful, that has us stunned? Speechless? Hungry to enjoy every glimpse before she fades away?
Maybe it’s because our culture lends little value to growing old, being old, that I find myself resisting. It’s odd that we labor intensely to mask what we’ve wonderfully become. Wouldn’t it be strange if trees suddenly covered themselves with some contrived mask of green, trying to resemble their spring once more? Trying to hide the tell-tale signs of decay? How awkward, even grotesque would be the result.
Thankfully that is not how Fall lives. She fully embraces her season – colorful, vibrant, fragile, alluring. Interestingly, even though Fall’s breath carries a subtle scent of death, the world takes note – cherishes her, holds fast to her while she remains in our sight just a bit longer. If only we sought the beauty of old people in the same manner that we do dying leaves.
This a real picture of real people. It is of my 21-year-old daughter with two of her dearest friends. Your eye, like mine, is likely drawn to the top. That hand belonged to Maggie (not real name), an elderly woman who endured many years of dementia; a golden leaf, who only this week drifted into the other side of eternity.
Forgetful, needy, confused, often attempting to run away … this woman, at 99 years of age and in the grasp of a memory-wasting disease, taught my daughter to love … to love for no reason returned. How valuable, thus, her life. How colorful then, the last of those 99 years, because her existence provided a beautiful opportunity.
We resist the fall season of our life. Like Maggie, like the trees … maybe we shouldn’t.
This is my daughter’s tribute to “Maggie”:
Being a caregiver is not the easiest job in the world, but I’m thankful and blessed to be able to serve and love people who need a little more care than others. Today we lost a resident who has made a huge impact in my life. It’s not easy knowing she won’t be there anymore after having tea, doing puzzles, chasing after her once she’s figured out how to open the gate to walk down the street or trying to convince her we are going to have a sleep over- like I have every week for the past 2 years. Even though she never could remember my name, she somehow filled that grandparent role for me and I hope to live my life to the fullest – with passion and determination like she demonstrated to all of us. I will miss her greatly.
I’m so proud of you, Molly. Thanks for letting your heart expand to love others with dignity, regardless of what they have to offer you. Your choices amaze me every day!