On Being Old...

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I turn 84 in July. I have yet to discover much that I like about being 83.

My friend, the Rev. Hal Eaton, another ancient warrior, says that he isn’t afraid of dying; it’s just being old that he doesn’t like.

Me too.

One of the several reasons I came to Galax 25 years ago was because my quick scan of the obituary page made it possible for me to believe that any area resident, who died before making 80, was a quitter.

That was when I thought that being old was a fun thing, and that Robert Browning’s Abou ben Adhem had it right when he spake:

Grow old along with me;

The best is yet to come,

The last for which the first was madeee

I haven’t checked up on him, but I think Browning must have written this poem when he was still young.

Salman Rushdie (Shalimar the Clown) spoke correctly when he wrote, “How you’re going to tolerate not being young any more, you won’t know until you grow old.”

Much depends on what you bring to old age. I grin as I remember the story about the faded movie star, who is under discussion by two film directors.

Says one, recalling the actor’s glory years, “He used to be up there with the best of them, making love to the most glamorous women in Hollywood. But now he’s nothing but a has-been.”

Replies the other, “But look where he has been!”

Try that one on for size, and see where it fits you. It sets me to thinking about the knobby and kilted knees of Harry Lauder, as he sang:

I’m not as young as I used to be,

When I was in my prime.

Although I’m growing old and grey,

I’ve had a lovely time.

I forget who advised me, Dum vivimus vivamus, that is, “While we live, let us live,” but I’ll buy into that.

However, as a woozy walker and a dizzy thinker nowadays, I must add, do not let anything interfere with ample lie-downs over the course of the day. Lie down and think of all the delight-filled things there are to be remembered.

I’ll share what my 85-year-old friend Doris Kershaw wrote me recently. Said she, a semi-invalid and merry widow: “The world has dwindled from being all out there to be plumbed and lived to the fullest — to a small round size to be held in the hand — and regarded with amazement and awe!”

It’s hard to whoop it up when the batteries in your whooper are running low. You can still glow and remember the music the band played when you danced under the stars with the queen of the ball.

I’ll give the last and best word to my friend Julian of Norwich, a 15th Century nun-anchoress:

Life is a precious thing to me

and a little thing:

my life is a little thing,

when it will end here

is God’s secret.

And the world is a little thing,

like a hazelnut

in his hand

but it is in his ever-keeping

it is in his ever-loving,

it is in his ever-making,

how should anything be amiss?

Yes, all shall be well,

and all will be well,

and thou shall see thyself

that all manner of thing

shall be well.

The Rev. Standrod Carmichael is the retired rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd of Galax.