Monday, October 25, 2010

Taking the Time, Today

I recently attended a memorial service for an elderly acquaintance--one of those pleasant affairs where the focus is on celebrating someone's long, fruitful, achievement-packed life, rather than mourning the tragedy of what is lost. Far from being sad, the festivities (I think it's safe to call them such) filled those of us present with joy and thanksgiving for having known this particular gentleman. People who knew him much better than I did offered touching eulogies and affectionate tales of his many adventures in his 95 years on earth. Turns out, he really got around!

In the midst of all the happy and poignant conversation, it struck me that it would have been nice to be able to speak about this man as more than an acquaintance, but as a friend. Our paths crossed regularly in the past nine years or so that I'd known him, and we exchanged the sort of respectful pleasantries you would expect from dialogue between a twenty-something woman and a ninety-something man. There was always something about him that intrigued me, his gentle manner, his intelligent observation of the world around him, his warmth and kindness. Yet, I found him slightly intimidating at the same time, because of his age and his declining health. Maybe I simply felt afraid to "bother" him, in case he needed his rest, or didn't want to dwell on stories of his youth.

As a lover of history, it always fascinates me to talk with people who lived through events I've only read about. Born in 1915, this man lived through the better part of the 20th century, with a ground-level view of some of the great eras and events of his times. I wish now that I could have found the courage to approach him, to invite him into conversation with me, because I think he would have come along willingly, and maybe I wouldn't have had to work very hard at all. I must admit, I crave contact with that sort of wisdom, and so often it is hard to really imagine that it will be gone sooner rather than later.

Do you have any older adults in your life who you'd like to sit down and have a good chat with? Maybe today is the day to give it a try.

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