Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lord Grant Me the Grace to Tell Them So

The path of aging is one that none of us can avoid.  We try and one must admit that the typical 50-year old today looks and acts a lot younger than did 50 year olds in 1940.  We have been able to slow the ravages of age on the outside and to some degree on the inside as well.  But in the end, the joke is on us because we will all grow old.  Our hair, if we are lucky enough to keep it, will gray, our teeth will lose their appeal, body functions will dwindle out of our control and our minds will not be as sharp as they once were.  It is a process.  Andy Rooney once said, “It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.” 

My parents spoke of their growing years openly and frequently.  My mother fought it with every ounce she had. She took great care of herself from diet to exercise to facial creams and lotions.  Cancer tried having the last laugh but even in her dying Mom remained radiant and beautiful.  I can still see her hands and face moments after her passing; so smooth, so ivory, and glowing.  She was beautiful.  Dad’s rough past and hardworking year’s show but still he looks pretty darn good for being 71 years old.  Alzheimer’s is playing out its cruel hand of punishment on my father from his walking, to his ability to exercise and take in nutrition, and even on his face.  Sometimes I gaze into his eyes and try to find the man of his youth.  That man continues to move farther and farther away but there is still a light that shines out from his beautiful blue eyes.  At times they look at me as if begging for help, curious to know why he is unable to do this or that.  Other times he looks at me with the unfaltering, unconditional love that defines my father and that only a father and son can share.  We embrace every day and the hugs tend to last longer than they used to.  I sense it is his spirit hanging on to every last portion of memory that he is able to, fully knowing that he is being robbed of his precious moments upon every tick of the clock.  There are moments when he seems lost.  His eyes go almost empty and his body appears stressed – unsure of its footing and not sure in which direction to move.  Those are the harsh reminders of age.

My father is falling as graceful as possible in to the abyss that is called Alzheimer’s.  With the love and support we continually shower upon him we can only pray that his winter years are kind and gentle. 

“Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples' affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; 
give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains -- they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn't agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint -- it is so hard to live with some of them -- 
but a harsh old person is one of the devil's masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. 
And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.


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