Everyone loved Gen. There was no shortage of volunteers ready to leap at the opportunity to drop something off, to make a call or to check-in with her. I knew her first as one of those gracious women who welcome the new pastor into a community. Still active, she was busy volunteering, checking in with her friends, making quilts, being attentive to her grandchildren, and dropping gifts of food off.
Later she would be hit with Macular Degeneration. Where some would have felt their life slipping away, Gen did what she always did. Gen was an expert at making lemonade out of the lemons which came her way. She learned how to use her remaining sight. With a good magnifying glass she could still make out some print, and keep tabs on stitches in her current quilt.
When I planned a visit to her home, Gen would insist on my coming to her home for lunch. Being ninety and almost blind didn’t stop her from preparing that lunch. Difficulty and trials had come her way, but, from the day I first met her, until I would leave that community eight years later, Gen exuded a sense of joy. I often told her that I wanted to grow old like her. Her attitude was a gift for all of us who knew her. I was inspired by her.
Some of us grow old and cranky. Others grow old and dear. They age with grace. A friend once told me that he decided not to be a complainer as he aged. Eighty-eight at the time, he admitted to not always feeling his best. This retired pastor said that after spending more time than he wanted with people who complained about everything, he simply didn’t want to live that way. What I have found in common with those who age gracefully, is a deep-seated faith and connection with God. There is also a sense of gratitude for every good gift, from a beautiful day, to a friend who calls, to a family that cares. These aged saints, make a point of reaching out to other people, and find meaning in their lives as they do so.
The psalmist says of these:
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap” Psalm 92:12-14
I still want to grow old like Gen.
First Published May 22, 2015 on “A Pastor’s Heart” and May 12, 2018 on “The Intersection of Faith and Politics”