Carolyn and I went to Regent again tonight. It was another packed house - this week we were all there to listen to Maxine Hancock talk about gettin' old. Officially the seminar was titled:
"After You Have Done Everything to Stand: Recasting Ageing Within the Pilgrimage of Faith"
Whoa boy. What a relevant topic.
She herself is a 17th century literature professor, so she quoted alot of Baxter, Bunyan and Elliot. But she had street cred on the topic because her parents both lived to be 89 years of age and needed care at the end of their lives. One had severe dementia and the other was sharp minded right til the end - so the care they each needed was different but fully necessary.
She talked about preparing oneself for the inevitable 'end stage'.
The conversations into and back out of Vancouver plus the lecture and question/answer period have got me thinking about how I should get ready for being that diaper-wearing, soup-eating, pill-popping stage of life:
(Some of these ideas are based on her talk. Others I thought up all by myself.)
1. Be really nice to your kids. They will make decisions for you someday. Be REALLY nice to your grandkids. Maybe they'll bring you chocolate when they come to visit. Dump gobs of love on your daughters-in-law so that they'll have patience when you drool on their carpet.
2. Have lots of friends who will share the journey with you. Misery loves company. Be old together. Find some women who want to share not only a house ("Golden Girls" of Langley) but also share 'round the clock young male caregivers who give sponge baths and foot massages.
3. Accept and embrace the notion that being in the old-age-stage is a God-designed privilege. He invented that end stage for a purpose. Know that it will be challenging to end well. The 'sunset' years are hard. Deal with it. God never intended a person to go through it alone. He still walks beside us when we shuffle and tip over.
4. Figure out your faith before you go senile. Have all that God stuff, and forever and ever amen stuff worked out so that you can enjoy a measure of eternal-life-related peace during your last years on earth. Who wants to be all angst ridden about life after death when they're 92. Seriously. Just accept Jesus now. Know who you believe in and why - so that you are certain about crossing into heaven when your season on earth is over.
5. Knit yourself into a community made up of awesome people of all ages who are not necessarily related to you. Why? Well, you just might outlive all your friends. And your kids might move away. And then where are you? Lonely and unable to clip your own toenails. But if you've loved and invested time into the lives of an assortment of folks, they may just love you back when you need it most.
6. Be an active member in a local church while you still have energy to contribute. And when you can't do it anymore, remove yourself from the position and allow yourself to practice the art of 'not-doing'. Simply "be". Be the old person who always has candies in her pocket, a kind word on her lips, a prayer on her heart and arms ready to hug.
7. Remember the goodness of God. Remind yourself of your God stories. Share your "ebenezers" with the generations that follow you. Tell them how good you have found God to be. Dwell on the good. Forget the bad.
8. Try not to smell like mothballs or onions. Don't get botox injections. Be wrinkled. Wear age-appropriate clothing. 82 year old pierced belly buttons need not be displayed in public.
9. Keep reading as long as your eyesight allows you to. And when the print is just too small and light never bright enough, switch over to books on tape. And if you have a granddaughter that loves to read, ask her to read her favourite book to you. Smile when she does if you don't understand what she's saying. Then ask her to read a Psalm.
10. Prepare to die. Get yer crap in order. Have a will. Keep your financial stuff up to date and easy to find. Have some life insurance set aside to pay for your funeral. Don't leave a mess behind. How is that fair to your kids? How?
11. Challenge yourself to get through an hour without complaining about your aches and pains. See if you can go a whole day without mentioning your sore back and tired knees. Don't get all caught up in the Name All My Owies Game. Refuse to play when those around you get started. Suggest strip poker or yahtzee instead.
12. Don't get old alone. Do what you have to do to be a part of a community. Repair or start building relationships now. Care for those who are currently on that journey - model the love you hope to receive someday. What goes around comes around.
And that's it for now.
Good thing I'm tired or I could keep growing this list all night long.