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.
you write beautifully — thank you for your thoughts
my idea of grace is a person who shows sincerity when communicating with other people.
You have always taken the time to pay attention to someone they are are speaking to you and you sincerely responded to their conversations. To me that is the most graceful thing that a person can ever do.
Happy birthday, Doris, and we look forward to you reaching triple digits. And what a great picture of you. Those Swedish genes sure keep you from looking your amazing age!
The thoughts and words in your blog are both helpful learning and an inspiration. Thank you for taking time to share them. They help me to understand my mother’s aging and to go through my own. I look forward to getting your emails! By the way, I consider you to be exemplifying grace in your life, from what I read in just about every one of your posts. Happy Birthday!🥳
Happy birthday Doris! I enjoy your messages so much.
Beautiful, and full of grace. Thank you. I am in my 67th year of my own flowing river, and also hope to navigate what remains with grace, gratitude and kindness. And with a wicked sense of humor!
Grace is defined by the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer as “grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” BCP, p858
I haven’t started reading it yet but one of the texts for the course on Spirituality and Aging is The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older, by Kathleen Dowling Singh.
I see you as aging gracefully. You did not try to ignore the diminishments of aging – physical, social, emotional and financial. Rather you met them honestly. You planned where you could, you enjoyed life throughout your years, you called it like it is. You never gave up. You knew what was most important to you and you shared that with important others so they could support you in the way you preferred to be supported. You examined diminishments and developed ways of dealing with them.
Your life has always exemplified grace and gratitude and many other wonderful characteristics. I am quite sure that others that know you feel the same way I do, that knowing you has been/is/and will ever be a blessing.
Thank you for being you!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for sharing, it was simple and full of grace!!!! Happy Birthday Doris…..
Congratulations on your day. You continue to make an impact in allowing us to follow your journey of life. The past few years of reading your blog has allowed me to live more fully as I read your journey to adapting Curiously you may have some limitations but your spirit, mind, willingness to share “aging” with us is really such a gift that I treasure. Thank you for being you.
Thank you for your fine thoughts and insights! Best wishes for a Happy Birthday!
Thank you for all that you’ve shared with us, the readers, about the changes that may be occurring and what has helped you manage them. Sharing and education are so important and I thank you for sharing. Happy Birthday and may your future continue to be a wealth of learning. You GO GIRL!
Hope you had a wonderful birthday.
Happy Birthday!! Thank you for all you have shared. It helps me figure out how I’ll manage the later years.
Happy Birthday and thank you for blog. I learn something from each posting.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Happy Birthday! 🥳
Happy Birthday, Beautiful Lady! Grace is manifest in your eyes (beautiful picture of you!) and in your attitude. My gratitude and appreciation for you, in your modeling of thinking through your challenges and figuring out how best to handle them. And I love your honesty! May we be given more time with you, and you with the world. 🎂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wishing you a wonderful birthday. May you have a year of joy living in gratitude and grace.
Happy 99th Birthday, dear Doris!! 🤗
This near 70 gal is blessed to have you as a constant mentor and friend.
Your celebration of 99 is full of interesting reminisces that bring you to now, an appreciation of those behind you. You are a beacon for any age striving for grace and gratitude, a path for all of us.
Happy birthday! I love this post, and have kept it in my inbox to read and re-read. Congratulations on your wonderful journey and your ability to share it with those of us not yet there. I am looking at eighty and it doesn’t seem nearly so scary now! 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hello Doris this is Judy,Paige‘s friend . I wanted to let you know that I wish you a very happy birthday although it’s late. . Additionally I need to share with you a birthday gift of the potential of Approximately 200 + new readers of your blog. I have moved to Riverwoods Durham which is in Durham New Hampshire and is a CCRC. I’ve been here a year hard to believe but Covid Reared its ugly head in March 2 weeks after I moved. This is a great place and wonderful people live here as well as a great staff. I shared your blog with one of our community leadership who has been putting the link into emails to residents. We have 150-220 people here and I hope you have heard from some of them. Your photo is beautiful and I pray I can get to the west coast to meet you ! Thank you for your contribution to “ thoughts on aging” and for being who you are. I am an Episcopalian and Love hymns of old and the quotes you used in this blog. Judyb
Sent from my iPhone