When we look around at elders, it’s interesting (and a bit awesome) to observe many engaged and committed people leading rich lives for as long as they live — and often despite fairly daunting physical difficulties. I usually think of my parents who use their energy to help others and solve problems in the world, despite sometimes frustrating aging concerns and occasional physical roadblocks. Participating in these activities energizes them. My mother describes it as, “living the Sermon on the Mount.”
One of my favorite folk song books.
I’ve been thinking about Pete Seeger, the activist folksinger who died at age 94 about a month ago. An amazing and prolific musician — I’ve sung his songs since I was a baby — he taught us a lot about music and singing and, more importantly, how to sing along with others. Seeger also combined his music with a strong social conscience, using the songs to demonstrate the importance of helping others and improving the world, and he did these things it right up to the end of his life.
Pete — just about everyone I talk with thinks of him as Pete, whether they’ve ever met him or not — also demonstrated how well a determined and engaged person can overcome daunting problems and continue to live a successful life right through the late elderhood years.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Nelson Mandela over the past several days. Since he died last Friday (December 6, 2013), I’ve considered especially the moral courage he demonstrated during his 95 years as well as his ability to work with and lead others even as he aged into his elder (and elder, elder) years — times when most people think about quitting work.
Two interesting quotes from Bill Keller’s extensive New York Times Nelson Mandela obituary remind me that just like any other elder, he took steps to ensure his stamina and condition, attending to physical challenges of aging — while at the exact time he assumed extraordinary leadership responsibilities. Continue reading →
Quartet is the perfect movie to see on Valentine’s Day. When I visit my parents this weekend, I will suggest that we all go and watch, and I can’t wait to see it for a second time.
The movie is about aging musicians, and the main characters are played by highly regarded and accomplished actors in their senior years. The story, about long retired musicians, is wonderfully touching, addressing in an artistic way all sorts of chronic problems and aging issues, including losing the ability to perform to the level they were used to as professional musicians. All of the extras are retired musicians — one man in his nineties — all of whom still love and enjoy their art. Dustin Hoffman, the director is 75. The credits recognize the more prominently featured elder musicians, explaining where and what they did professionally.
I cannot say enough about how good this movie is to watch, and the way it celebrates the elder years. It tackles the frustrating problems of ageism head on. Read this Quartet review in the Boston Globe.
My Uncle, Sherman Massey – from My Mother’s Collection
It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2012, when we remember men and women who fought and gave their lives, largely to maintain democracy and religious freedom. Each year, I think about my Uncle Sherman, although I think about him lots of other times too, because while he did not die fighting, he made an ultimate sacrifice — losing any quality of life after extreme shell shock suffered in World War II.
These days, as various groups tell people what to believe, how they should worship, who they should and shouldn’t love, and even for whom they should cast a vote, I remember Uncle Sherman, precisely because he went to fight Hitler’s evil world view and the Holocaust. He did this after learning about freedom of religion and persecution of the Jews — in Shelburne Sunday school in Terre Haute, Indiana. He went to war to fight hate.
Sherman had never met anyone of the Jewish faith, but he knew they had a right to live their lives, and were he alive today he would be very puzzled about the many people making hateful comments about Muslims. My uncle was a member of “the greatest generation,” today’s elder-elders who put themselves in grave danger and saw countless friends and family members die in at least one war. Continue reading →
Sometimes at my church in late October we sing the hymn, For All the Saints. At that service we remember the many dedicated and committed people who have died over the course of the year. For me, this service is always a time to think about long time members, most of them elders and many the age of my parents, who have accomplished much and made the world and community — not just our church — a better place.
This celebration of All Saints’ Day makes me think about getting older, how much life I have left to live (quite a few years, I hope), and whether, when the time comes and my life ends, I will look back and feel like I have lived my life with service to others.
My church is celebrating its centennial year, and right now it’s mid-May, not October. I just enjoyed another opportunity to listen and ponder the well-lived lives of elders (age-wise, not in the church governing sense), some departed, but a good many still alive and active. So many of these people, contributing time and talent, ensured during the first 75 years, that the church would endure for generations, making is possible for the rest of us to celebrate this 100th year. For three hours people shared stories and special memories about the history and lives lived in ways that affect change without rubbing their religion in the face of others. Though it was a long afternoon, hardly anyone left before the event ended.
I cannot get Rachel from Credit Card Services to stop calling me. She has such a lovely voice, and she always tells me that there is no problem with my credit card. But then she continues on, encouraging me to talk to one of her colleagues about lowering credit card interest rates. Moreover, it will be my last opportunity. Don’t I wish it was going to be my last opportunity to talk with Rachel and her colleagues!