Looking back over the 99 years, the digits of the year appeared to be less important than what was happening or what the number made possible. “Sweet 16” was memorable because my mother planned a surprise party that I messed up by coming home early from school looking truly bedraggled with a high fever and sore throat. I heard the party in the living room beneath my upstairs bedroom. “21” seemed important as a number because, having passed the two-day state nursing licensure exam, I became a licensed RN. I also registered to vote. “60” was important because the state legislature made it financially advantageous to take early retirement and “65” because I could get Medicare. “83” is vivid because that year my husband died. The other year numbers just came and went, some with celebrations of their arrival and others without.
So why does 99 seem more symbolic than any of the other 98 birthdays? I’ve no idea. It isn’t as if it was anything I’d been striving toward. It just happened. With the pandemic, there’ll be no party just virtual and socially distant short contacts. (I did receive a Kudo board from present and earlier colleagues that amazed and overwhelmingly delighted me).
Now that it’s arrived, my thoughts seem to be focusing on how to spend the upcoming time. Two underlying themes promptly presented themselves. I’d seen my parents, my mother-in-law, my sister, her husband and my husband each facing this situation under differing circumstances and in different ways. But the common characteristics in the way they lived out the final segment of their lives were gratitude and grace despite vicissitudes. Now it’s my turn and that’s what I want too.
As I began thinking about gratitude, a verse of a hymn from my earliest years sang in my brain.
“Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace within
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!” Storm1895, Hultman 1910
When I looked it up I was not surprised to learn the words were penned by a member of the Swedish Salvation Army (Frälsning’s Armen). (It was my dad’s religious affiliation in his younger years and even I had some contact with the local Swedish branch as a child.) The melody was created years later by another Swede.
Being grateful hasn’t yet posed any challenges for me either in good or hard times. It seems to have been important in my nurturing and perhaps also my nature. I doubt it will change. Still, looking for elements to be consciously grateful for will be something I will do.
Aging with grace? Now that’s something else. I had only the fuzziest of ideas on what grace was. Knew it when I saw it, but describe it? No. Various computer entries suggest that it is a seemingly effortless flowing quality of being unruffled, agile, appropriate, and considerate of others. (It also suggested elegance and beauty, but those seemed beyond my realm.)
Well, I and my river of aging certainly have been flowing over the changing riverbed of environmental and age related changes (ARCs). We’ve flowed over and around external obstacles of change (both positive and adversarial). When we’ve encountered obstacles, sometimes we got ruffled and created white water as we encountered them, but then settled back to a calm flow.
Currently aging and daily living are flowing quietly, in part because of the pandemic and its isolation and despite the disruptive political mayhem that threatens everyone’s wellbeing.
With the remembering and pondering evoked by writing this blog posting , I’ll have more awareness of seeking to live each day with gratitude and grace as I wend my way to the sea.