We're a funny bunch, us humans. The one sure thing in our lives is that we will die. Most of us don't know when or how we will end but -- pretty much as soon as we can fathom -- we learn that our earthly, physical life is temporary. And yet when we learn of someone's passing, we are shocked -- often followed with "why?". "He was so young". "She was such a good person..." Our denial runs deep.
People of all ages fall off every day -- some instantly, accidentally, intentionally, and others stalked by illness and disease. And if we are really lucky, and dodge the aforementioned, we have the privilege of growing old. If we get to be old, it means we've depleted and squeezed the maximum usage out of our bodies and completed this race we call life. We're winners.
And what is the prize for being a winner? Mmmm - tough question. Old people have suffered a lifetime of accumulated losses: parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, spouses, colleagues and friends. Imagine being the sole survivor of your generation in your family; not having anyone alive who remembers you as a child or at your youthful peak. Imagine that the people in your life have only known your wrinkles and ailments - and not the energy and accomplishments of your younger self. No wonder old people get cranky! I'm getting cranky just writing about it!
When we see an older person it's easy to forget that behind that crusty mask of age is someone with a lifetime of experiences; who flirted and courted and fell in love; who had dreams and hardships and triumphs; and who never imagined that they too would be old some day. And to add to the frustration, old people have a lifetime of wisdom to share - and a small audience who seek it.
In many cultures around the world and in our own aboriginal communities, old people are revered as "elders" - mentors and living examples of deeply ingrained principles, values and teachings. I am fortunate that in my family -- my tribe -- there is a shared respect, responsibility and appreciation for our elders. We smother them with love and affection and take every opportunity to express our feelings as not to leave anything unsaid. Come to think of it, not too much of anything is left unsaid in our family -- and that's a good thing!
So if I haven't depressed the hell out of you about growing older and old -- I suppose I am suggesting that you focus on that which you can affect -- your attitude towards aging and the aged. I for one have my eye on the prize and if I get the chance to grow old and a little crusty - I will be grateful for a lifetime full of all that I created for myself. And in the meantime, I'm going to make it my mission that the elders in our tribe are happy to still be in the race!