Here’s a lesson for all those vain people out there who are afraid to grow old.
The mantle clock struck midnight and I was still awake on the couch – my wife snuggled up in a blanket next to me, sound asleep.
No doubt a late night cup of coffee and a small piece of leftover chocolate cake was sure to be the culprit for my wide eyes. So I decided to channel surf until my eyes eventually grew tired of flicking through the hundreds of channels supplied by my cable provider.
After I’d gone through almost every channel available, I landed on a program I wouldn’t normally watch. It was a medical documentary about children who were battling cancer. As I’m sure many of you can understand, the distressing subject matter and heart wrenching video footage made watching this program almost unbearable at times. And yet for some reason I just couldn’t change the channel.
About halfway through the documentary, a young mother was asked, “If you had but one wish for your son, what would it be?” As she dried a constant stream of tears from her eyes, she smiled, softly answering, “Truthfully, I just wish he’d grow old, well into his 80’s”.
The irony of her request was enough to send chills down my spine. Imagine, the one thing she wished more than anything for her son was something we seem to spend most of our adult lives trying to avoid – to grow old.
Look around you and you’ll see that we live in a youth-obsessed culture – bombarding us in every form of media from magazines, to the internet, to television and movies. We’re constantly seeking the fountain of youth, which will enable us to look much younger in the mirror every morning.
But in other parts of the world, in countries such as India, China and many Middle Eastern regions, age is embraced and elders revered. Native Americans for instance calling them, “the wisdom keepers”. But in America, growing old is not something we look upon as a blessing but rather as a curse.
As if the documentary didn’t make me feel bad enough, the following day I found myself privy to a story from a fellow coworker about her mature minded, 20-something year old daughter and the challenging decision she now faced.
Though still young, she was ready to find a true, loving, committed relationship and thought she may have found it with a young man she met at work. But after a few weeks of spending a great deal of time together, the young man realized the two were starting to grow fond of each other and thought it was time to finally tell his secret.
The young man was living with cystic fibrosis. For those unfamiliar, cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease, which affects the mucus glands of the lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines, which eventually causes progressive disability due to multisystem failure.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cystic fibrosis and most individuals succumb to the disease when they’re in their 30’s.
The young woman realized that the man she was starting to have feelings for may not be around a decade from now. Imagine his difficulty to have to tell someone he genuinely cared for that falling in love with him would ultimately come with a price.
I began to wonder what it must be like to know that you’ll never have the opportunity to grow old. To never live through pubescence and be a teenager. To never become a young adult filled with hope and promise for a brighter future. To never celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary or finally become eligible for the senior citizens discount at your local retail store.
It’s something I now think about every time I witness the myriad of things we all do in an effort to recapture our youth. The stories above illustrate quite clearly just two reasons why we should be satisfied and grateful if we’re given the opportunity to just grow old. While the thought of aging both physically and mentally can be cause for anxiety, I hope we all begin to understand how lucky we are at any age of our life.