Growing old – never forget your life was filled with greatness

Did you ever pass by an old, abandoned building and wonder to yourself, how did it start out life? At the time of completion the building may have been considered state of the art – on the cutting edge of technology – only now it’s nothing more than a piece of history that’s been plagued by vandalism and reduced to rubble. The same could be said for that 57 Chevy rusting and rotting away in an overcrowded junkyard.

Certainly a pale comparison to the years when muscle cars were all the rage and drive-in movies were a common form of entertainment on Friday nights.

But there must have been a time when these relics once possessed beauty and commanded respect from those that found purpose in their creation. But as each of them reached the end of their usable life cycle, it’s sometimes forgotten just how valuable they once were. That building may have been home to immigrants coming to America. That old Chevy might have been where someone experienced their first kiss or drove up to their first home with their now mate of 40+ years.

When you think about it, human beings aren’t all that much different than buildings and cars – sadly enough they’re just as easily forgotten.

When you take a look at those that have managed to live well into their 80’s and 90’s, we automatically judge them based upon preconceived stereotypes that society has created for each and every generation. We don’t look at them as people, but instead as roadblocks in supermarkets or the cause of traffic jams on our local streets.

But the reality is, these people once possessed beauty and commanded respect from those that found purpose in their life. Simply put, their lives were not always like the abandoned buildings on our roadsides or the rotting cars in our junkyards – their lives were once filled with greatness.

The other day I was going through a box of old pictures I found in the basement. It’s always amusing to look back and see the clothes, the hairstyles and the multi-colored wallpaper my parents had in the 70’s. By the time I had reached the last photo, I found myself feeling ancient. I mean could it really have been that long ago when some of these pictures were taken?

I still feel young and yet I find myself in my late 30’s with more gray hairs then I’d like to admit. But then I started to realize that I wasn’t the only one getting old. With each day, each month, each year that I find myself growing older so is everyone else around me. I think we sometimes forget about that until the mortality of those we’ve known our entire lives is questioned. We realize that while we’ve been busy worrying about staying young, those we love have been aging gracefully in the corner.

The sad reality of life is that much like that abandoned building or rusty old car, our lives will some day cease to be useful, meaningful – even to ourselves. Modern day medicine and technology has teamed up to bring the population of the world the ability to live longer than ever before. Diseases and ailments that once singled the end of one’s life has been replaced with an air of hope and longevity even under the most trying circumstances.

But one question still remains unanswered to me – while the quantity of years on this earth has increased dramatically, what about the quality?

Many times society never thinks to stop and ask how the elders of the world are doing. We know they’re sitting there quietly on the sidelines, but never think they could have anything meaningful to talk about. I’d be a liar to say that I wasn’t one of those people. But of late, I’ve been hearing a message I never thought I’d hear from the elders of the world.

There’s been a shift from the traditional “I’m so lucky I’ve made it this far” to “I’ve lived my life and now I’m ready to go.” Lives that were once filled with meaning and substance have become so mundane, so insignificant that one’s soul would rather move on than continue in a world that has simply forgotten about them.

As the old adage goes, there are two things in life you can’t escape – paying taxes and dying. But I tend to think there’s really one more – growing old. While it may be hard for some people to contemplate, we all will succumb to the aging process at one point or another. And ya know, the more I think about it the more I truly hope we all do.

So many will never have the opportunity to retire, to see their grandchildren grow or even the simple act of going to an AARP club meeting. The elders of the world are a glimpse into our future. One day we’ll all find ourselves ceasing to be useful, meaningful – even to ourselves. Let’s hope we all have the good fortune to be surrounded by those that see beyond the broken down building and the rusted old car because not too long ago our lives were once filled with greatness.