A reader of The Farmer's Wife in the Southland has asked me to discuss the subject of Growing Old. Rather an odd request, for "Growing Old" is not a very welcome subject in America just now. [Or 86 years later in 2014.] Beauty experts and Keep-young-societies are filling the land with Anti-wrinkle Truth, yet the simple fact remains that our yesterdays do not come back.
For most people, the advancing years are a blessing for through them we grow away from the follies and fictions of life to a real understanding of the meaning of things.
Growing old gracefully is largely a matter of living gratefully.
To me, in middle life, sunrises and sunsets have lost none of their beauty. Mr. Thomas Edison, now at eighty says, "The things which I now do give me as much pleasure as the things which I did when younger."
There is really no age to the mind or to the soul. What seems to be age is a slowing up of the bodily processes. Glad of each morning, and grateful to God for the blessings of each day, my faith is that our souls defy the calendar.
To grow old gracefully, one must learn to sidestep worry. Worry is the plow that furrows our faces. It is a useless sin and does incalculable harm. Worry tries to tack tomorrow's load upon the tired shoulders of today. It causes us to reach our little hands to take the reins out of the great hands of God. Every time we give up to worry we release poisons into our blood that unfits us for our tasks, and make us take hold of the tools of life with palsied hands.
Jesus observed over-anxious people and said to them, "If God so clothed the grass which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?"
The amazing thing about Jesus is that he could face all the suffering which he knew was ahead of him without worrying about it. He certainly is our Teacher and Master in the school of trust.
To grow old gracefully one must keep busy at useful tasks. The do-nothing becomes an is-nothing. Someone says, "Suppose a person is so crippled that he cannot walk, what then?" I would reply, "No one ever arrives at the place where he needs to be useless." I knew of a lady who was bedfast for years. Her room became a sort of shrine where people went to catch her faith and see her smile. Physically helpless, she became perhaps the most useful person in the town.
I once read in an undertaker's magazine, "If you want a coffin, stop working and you will soon get one." One is doing a useful task in the world who perfects an even temper in suffering, though he is deprived of active toiling.
To grow old gracefully, it is necessary to preserve faith in oneself, one's neighbor and in God. How much easier it is to preach this doctrine than it is to practice it! We fail to reach our ideals and then give up trying. Others fail us and we lose faith in them. Life shows its teeth to us and we lose faith in God. Yet, in all this there is hope for us. Even though we fail, we can believe that we are capable of better things. A man is always better than his worst. So is his neighbor.
A better understanding of the ways of God come to us with the passing of the years, making it possible for us at last to sing.
"Blest be the tempest, kind the storm
That drives us nearer home."
To me, old age is a beautiful thing and I am going to strive to keep to the above directions, hoping that I shall be able to prove them, should God give to me the time of gray hairs.
The Bible says, "A hoary (gray) head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness."
Robert Browning adds:
"Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be."