by Ken Rolheiser
Aging Gracefully and Expiration Dates

A good friend of mine used to say, “Enjoy your birthday. As young as this we will never again be together.” And he was right. So far this is as old as I have ever been. 

World Health Organization defines how old is old: 0 to 17 are under-age; 18 to 65 are youth or young; 66 to 79 years are middle aged; 80 to 99 years are elderly or senior; 100 Plus are long lived elderly.

One reader KVRR commented: “There are two categories of old age people, the ones who are old by virtue of age and young at heart, and the others who are old by virtue of age and attitude. 

“The persons who remain young at heart,” he continues, “remain young even at the old age… There may be some physical and health problems, but they cannot suppress the youthfulness of the mind.”

There are secrets to maintaining inner joy and a youthful heart. Eighty-three-year-old Emma Isabelle, moving to a retirement home, was asked about the move. “I love it,” she said. “But you haven’t seen the home.” “That doesn’t matter.” She goes on to explain.

“Happiness is something you decide over time… It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have the choice… Every day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I will focus on the new day and the happy memories I've stored just for this time in my life.”

Her advice: Happiness is like a bank account. You withdraw from it, what you deposit… Remember these five simple things: Free your heart from hate. Free your mind from worries. Live Simply. Give more. Take less.

How can we maintain a joyful attitude through difficult times? Elena Mikhalkova shares the wisdom her grandmother gave her: “…move forward in small steps. Do what you have to do, but little by little. Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.

“Wash the dishes. Remove the dust. Write a letter. Make a soup. Advance step by step. Take a step and stop. Rest a little. Praise yourself. Take another step. Then another.

“You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more. And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.” (from Midwives of the Soul).

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, left us an inspiring legacy about death from pancreatic cancer at age sixty-five. “…when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth.”

He continues: “[There] Should be something that is more important: perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days.” Steve died in the presence of his wife and family. As he looked past them beyond the room he said, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.”

We can joke about it, but in the end, we are all born with an expiration date. Death, it can be argued, came about after God’s plan was adjusted to accommodate Adam and Eve’s (our) failings. We are all in the plan. Being born to eternal life is a cause for great joy.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation” (1 Peter 1:3).
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