Thursday, December 20, 2007

Yes, You Have A Wonderful Life!

By the year 2030, the 65 and older population in the U.S. will be doubled, totaling about 72 million people. Sadly as we near the end of life, even then as well as now, too many of us will be unhappy and resentful because we didn’t, or couldn’t, fulfill our youthful dreams.

Well, think again. Even if we didn’t get that PhD, or earn millions of dollars, or sail around the world, we still did make a difference, a difference we should be proud of and celebrate.

Even as they approach the greatest adventure of all, the end of life, the dear friends that I care for in hospice often relive their lives and bring contentment to their last days by telling me their stories. Remembering their good times helps them, and me, celebrate who they had been and what they had achieved, re-living what it felt like to have a whole life waiting to be experienced and to have done the best they could.

Remember the 1946 Frank Capra movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”? George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), feels that his life has been a failure. Then Clarence, an angel, showed George what would have happened to his family, friends, and his little town, Bedford Falls, if George hadn’t existed. It is only then that George understands how worthwhile his life really was. He is finally able to exclaim, “Yes, I really have a wonderful life!"

What is your story? Think about it: the little kindnesses you did, the moments when the best in you came out and changed other peoples’ lives, all the little gifts of love and attention given and received? Even in your darkest days, little candles were lit by you and others around you to prove that you indeed had – and are having – a wonderful life.

Pass this message on, and let me know how you continue to light the darkness in our world.

* * *

“How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
- Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1

Friday, December 7, 2007

Think Young, No Matter What Your Age.

“How foolish to think one could ever slap the door in the face of age.
Much wiser to be polite and gracious and ask him (or her) to lunch
in advance.” – Noel Coward

“Thinking young” is not pretending to be young. The magic of thinking young is allowing our mind and our emotions to be flexible and daring, always looking for adventure and satisfaction, searching for new things to experience and
enjoy. We can all be that kind of person with that kind of mind no matter how old we are.

Aging doesn’t have to be a fearful, isolating, empty process. It can become a time of new discoveries about ourselves and the world around us. It can be a time for new adventures even if the physical adventures of rock climbing and running marathons are beyond our physical abilities.

I learned that I could walk a marathon; in my late 60’s, I entered the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon and participated with all those crew-cut runners, and I still had great fun doing it. Sure, they arrived at the 26.2 mile finish line way ahead of me, but I finished the marathon! Just because our wrinkles are showing and our pace is slowing doesn’t mean we can’t be explorers and adventurers; we can continue to enter the world, whether it’s a walk around the block, a hike in the Cotswold’s, or re-discover our childhood by reading the adventures of Harry Potter.

“Thinking young” is an on-going, active engagement with our personal world every moment of every day. The key is to be constantly aware that every single day, every single precious moment, may be our last. We must continually exercise our emotions, our mind and our life processes with the same daily dedication with which we exercise our body, in order to stay physically healthy and pain-free. Even if we are retired or disabled, we must continue to make friends, join groups, read books, make a strong effort to create within every day an adventure.

What are you doing to “think young”? Let me know and I’ll pass it on to others who would like more suggestions for activities to help them live life to its fullest.