Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I’ve just returned from a wonderful, peaceful and relaxing time at the ocean where the only requirement was to arise each morning, walk gently through the new day with absolutely nothing needing to be done, no tasks, no chores and no place to go. Sitting on the beach watching the waves break at my feet, one after the other, systematically and relentlessly repeating themselves every few seconds, piqued my imagination and forced me to think about the continuity and unending flow of life. I was consumed and comforted thinking about all the years that had gone before and those yet to come. And I suddenly felt very old. I made a conscious decision to honestly search my soul and focus on discovering my true and innermost thoughts about this process of aging. I had this unexplained desire to understand where I was in the moment and how I would or could face this last chapter in my life..

I hadn’t thought a whole lot about it until now, but as I began to search my innermost private thoughts I reached an amazing discovery. As I pondered how I felt in the very core of my being, not surface stuff like aches and pains, but deep down in my heart, I experienced an epiphany of sorts.

Certainly my life had been filled with many things, some good, some bad; some happy, some sad; some disappointing, some uplifting. But somehow I hadn’t been aware that time was moving as quickly as it did. The last time I looked, I was twenty years old, blond, blue-eyed and weighed a mere 120 pounds. I awoke one morning and the “me” I saw in the mirror was someone else. I didn’t see it coming and suddenly it was here. I still didn’t feel old but sure enough, I was.

Old age, I decided, is a gift. To be finally close to knowing who I am, probably for the first time in my life, is a startling revelation. It’s refreshing to realize my body has little if anything to do with it. After so many years of worrying and fretting over appearances it finally just doesn’t enter into the realm of what’s important. It makes no difference whether I’m tall or short; whether I need to lose 5 or 50 pounds; whether my skin is taut or wrinkled; whether my hair is perfect or my clothes are fashionable. It certainly makes no difference whether I’m rich or poor because there’s not much left on which I want to spend my money. I have all the material things I need. I’m getting too tired and feeble to travel afar and many of my old traveling companions are gone. I’ll still hold my stomach in when I have my picture taken and I’ll still try to look my best to “impress” people but I no longer despair over my body. My bras and underwear no longer need to provide support. Comfort is what I desire most desire now. Perhaps I should burn my bra now even though I never thought of it in the 60’s when it was the “cool” thing to do. I’ve worn my last pair of high heels and fashion boots and choose to sleep in and old t-shirt rather than a black negligee or nightgown. I no longer agonize over how i look. It is what it is and it makes little difference in the total picture. As the saying goes, “I’m comfortable in my skin.”

I certainly would never think about trading my loving family or amazing friends for a flatter belly or fewer age spots on my hands and face. As I've aged, I've become more accepting and kinder to myself. I’m less critical and like myself a lot better. I'm freer to eat what I want and behave the way I feel. I’m pretty much completely honest with myself and others and don ‘t hesitate to say exactly what I’m thinking. People have every right to shake their heads and comment “don’t let her bother you; she’s old and says whatever comes into her head.”

I’ve become my own best friend. I don't always make my bed, and I sometimes buy some silly, stupid thing just because I like it. I’ve earned the right to be lazy, messy and extravagant. I’ve seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they’ve felt this unbelievable sense of freedom that comes with age.

I can read deep into the night and not get out of bed the next day till noon. I can live in the past and remember the good music, the special teacher in 3rd grade, my first boyfriend and first kiss. Yet I often can’t remember what I had for breakfast that morning. I can rejoice or weep at those memories. I’ll forget a lot of things in my past but then some of them are best forgotten anyway. Sometimes I’ll even remember the important things and either laugh or cry over those memories. Over the years my heart has been broken and then miraculously, somehow been rejuvenated. I’ve lost loved ones and seen great suffering. This has served to strengthen and enrich my compassion. How can you not feel and learn from the suffering and pain of those we love? Broken hearts are mended by understanding and acceptance. How can we know pure joy if we never experience deep sadness?

I am blessed having lived long enough to have grey hair. The lines forever etched in my face are either hard earned groves or delightful laugh lines. How many people never have the opportunity to laugh? How many die before their hair turns grey? As I get older, I sincerely don’t care what others think of me. I don't question myself as much and know I've earned the right to be wrong.

Being old has set me free. I like the person I have become. I won’t live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. For the first time in my life, I don't need a reason to do the things I want to do. If I want to play games on the computer all day, lay on the couch and watch old movies for hours or don't want to go to the beach or a movie, I have earned that right to say “no.” I put in my time doing for others, so now I can be a bit selfish without feeling guilty.

How many of us put off things we wanted to do because we had no time? How often have we turned down our favorite dessert because we’re watching our weight? How often have we said to our kids “later, honey, I’m busy now?” Life has a sneaky way of accelerating as we age. Days get shorter and our lists of “things to do” get longer. And then one day we awaken and realize we may not have the time or the energy to accomplish everything on our list.

So, I’m going to get up off that couch and take a ride on a merry-go-round. I’m going to watch the sun set at night and rise in the morning. I may even try para-sailing. I’ll listen to the song birds sing and the wind rush through the trees. I’ll count the circles in the lake made by the rain drops splashing on the water. I’ll call an old friend just to say “hello” and I’ll have ice cream for dessert at both lunch and supper. I’ll kiss my husband of 53 years and tell him I love him more today than I did all those many years ago.

I feel sorry for the young. They face a far different world than mine. We feared the law, respected our teachers, listened to our parents, prayed hard and I almost never felt the need to use gutter language. “Father knew best” and mom was our best friend. We relied on our parents, teachers and God to mold and form our young minds and knew nothing about mind-altering drugs.

Life was much easier. We weren’t faced with 30 plus choices of cereal or cookies or fruit at breakfast. We ate what we were served and if we didn’t finish it we believed it would be sent to far-off lands to feed the hungry. We expected our President to tell the truth when he spoke to the American people and we certainly expected our priests to keep their zippers up. Arithmetic wasn’t considered fun; it was hard work learning those times tables. We ate together as a family at dinner and talked about what was important to us and learned key lessons about the importance of leading good and fulfilling lives. We cleared the table and did the dishes. We did our homework and went to bed without having television violence and trauma uppermost in our young minds. Our lives were slower, more serene and incredibly simplistic and peaceful.

I am grateful to have been born in a kinder, gentler world. I read somewhere (and now that I’m old I can’t for the life of me remember where it was or who said it) but it’s a great line that I wish for all us old folks – “We’re born kicking and screaming and everyone else in the room is smiling. May we live our lives so that when we die, we’re smiling and everyone else in the room is crying.”

All of the above is but a mere compilation of all that I've seen, experienced, discovered, read or learned from others. Old age is not too bad!


My friend,
As you sit with your mom during these last few days of her long life touch cord deep in my heart. You may not recognize it now but trust me when I tell you that these final days and hours with you are are the finest gift you can give her - and that she gives to you. To be able to sit quietly next to her, stroke her hair, hold her hand, put your arms around her and bring her close to your heart is giving her the strength and tools she needs to die with love and dignity. She's feeling your love and your devotion and that's bringing gentle comfort and easing any pain she might have. Just as she comforted you as a child, so too, are you caressing her and letting her know how much you love her. It is your finest hour in all the many years you've spent loving each other.

And for you .... she's giving you a special gift by her long goodbye. My mom died years ago of a cerebral hemmorage and was dead when she collapsed to the floor after a full, active day. The suddenness and unexpectedness of it was a deep and fracturing wrench in my heart and has left a void that can never be filled. I never had the wonderful chance to say goodbye, I couldn't hold her hand, stroke her hair, comfort her with soothing tones. A day doesn't go by when I don't think about this wonderful woman. I am just now beginning to recognize those thoughts as a blessing from her because she will remain with me always. You and your mom are connected in a magical, mystical way because of these final days. Embrace every minute of them and hold them close forever.

You are both in my prayers.


Youthful Death

A young 32 year old man was in the end stages of cancer He and his beloved were lying together on his bed, she offering calm support as she gently massaged his shoulders and back. He began to talk about how he would face his approaching death. She asked him if he was frightened and he thought for a few moments and then began to describe what he was thinking.

Do you remember, he asked her, when you were a child and you were allowed to go out after dinner on a balmy summer evening when it stayed light longer? All the kids on the block were out in the street playing kick the can or red light or stick ball. Moms remained in the kitchen doing the dishes and fathers sat on the front porch reading their newspapers and smoking their cigarettes or cigars. There was a gentle, soft glow in the evening sky as the sun began to set and the fireflies began their nightly dances under the street lights .

And then one by one, the screen doors would open and close and moms would come to the door and call you inside. The first one to be called was always bummed to be the first called. He or she knew there would be a warm welcome inside, probably a cool drink and a few cookies, nice crisp, clean linen on the bed and a warm hug and good night kiss. But it was no fun to be the first one called home. And as each child was called, one by one, the game became less and less fun. The last one to be called in wasn’t really having much fun any more but knew it was time to go.

I feel like that first kid called home. I don’t want to go so early but I’m not afraid


A very wise person told me why he believed so strongly in the soul – in its powers, its eternity and above all its connection with loved ones. He believed that parents and children were parts of the same soul and that we are reunited with our family after death. This bond transcends time and space and even death and remain present within us even after death.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain; I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.



"What people don't understand about birthdays and what no one ever tells us when we're eleven years old, that we are also ten, nine, eight, seven and even down as young as two and one. Some days we might say something stupid and that's part of us that's still ten... or maybe some days we may need to call our mothers for help because we're scared or need an answer to something and that's part of us that's still five .. and maybe some day, when we're all grown up, maybe we'll need to cry like we did when we were three, and that's okay because that's part of us that still is three!”

Indeed, we carry every age within. May you laugh, cry, rejoice, celebrate, remember and touch all these spaces deep inside as you sing Happy Birthday! Make this a day/week/month one of gratitude for your life and what you mean to so many! We should celebrate a birth week or month … certainly something more than a day.

Just having celebrated my 70th birthday and John’s and my 50th wedding anniversary makes me feel very, very old, but more important, very, very blessed. Life has been so much more good than bad that I marvel as I look back. I can’t say I don’t wish for my 20 year old body again with no aches and pains but even so, each new day is a gift and one to be lived in joy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strange, strange, strange! I forgot all about this blog. Someone must have suggested that it might be good for me to write down my thoughts and feelings during the awful months following John's death. I think I was in such pain at that time that I would try anything and everything offered as possible relief. I guess it must have worked somewhat, somehow, because I'm still here. I guess I'm feeling less gut wrenching pain; am still lonely; still miss him; still think about him; still searching for something/anything that will make me consistently happy again!

Someone very dear to me "stumbled" on this blog and reminded me that it even existed. I searched until I found it and am amazed that I could forget to "share" my on-going growth, decline ... growth ... decline ... stumbling .... searching .... laughing .... crying ... living .. in this mystery of widowhood. It's been said that time heals all and I'm not sure that's so. I think in many ways it's harder now 2 1/2 years later because now I know it's for real; that it's not going away; that he's in the next passage of this journey we call life. I can only hope he's happy and doing and accomplishing all the wonderful things he didn't get a chance to complete in his days here.

I will tell you that losing that piece of my heart and soul has made me more aware of how little time we spend in this particular phase of our journey. We are miniscule specks in the full picture of things and it makes me absolutely certain that our energy and self that's gone from here are very definitely filling space in another place. Now if I could only figure out with absolute certainly how our lives on earth affect our next lives wherever, you can be sure I'd be a woman with a mission ....... that is, to prepare for my next phase when I hope I will be reunited with all the loved ones I've lost during my 77 years here.

Whoever it was who originally suggested I try to find some relief on a blog was right. If no one ever reads it, that's perfectly okay. If anyone does and finds some wisdom in it, that's okay as well. But whatever, I do feel a sense of relief in being able to say whatever I want about how I'm feeling and to imagine that someone is listening. Maybe even my beloved Johnny F. is reading it from his special place and smiling. I love you John always and forever!