Who will I be when I’m old?
I say I’m old at times but I’m learning to correct myself to say “I’m getting older”. That feels more ‘real’, because I’m not old. At least not the old that I imagine I will be someday.
70, 80, 90? I think I will be able to call myself old then, if I’m still here. Isn’t that the question we always wonder anyway?! Will I be here? Will I make it that long? Is that what God has in store for me? Will my body be healthy enough to go the distance?
I think about getting older from my own unique perspective, as I’m sure we all do. My perspective comes from having lost my father when I was 25 and my mother when I was 40. My father was only 61 when he died. That’s less than 20 years away for me. Even less for my sister. My mother died when she was 76 but the truth is, she died back in 1995 when my father passed away.
When I look at the history of longevity in my family, it’s kind of all over the map. Some people lived a long life, others died young. Some were healthy until they were old and others were sick for many years. Some got sick, like my father, and that was it. 9 months after diagnosis, he was gone.
The spark for writing this however isn’t really about death. It’s about aging and how we see ourselves as we get older. There was a video posted that you may have seen on Facebook recently. It takes a young couple who have known each other since they were 19 and with the help of studio make-up, they age together through the decades to experience what life might look like as they grow old together.
It was such a remarkable thing to see. Their emotions were real and raw as they looked at their 50, 70 and 90 year old selves. They knew they may not look exactly like this, but the experience of seeing themselves “older and old” was transformative.
She quoted her mother who commented on the experience in such a beautiful way. She said they were being given a gift to see what their children may look like old, because they will most likely have died long before their children reach these ripe ages.
For the couple, they looked at each other with expressions of almost having experienced this lifetime together and they aren’t even married yet. The wedding was a month away when this was made, and yet they looked at each other through eyes that had children and grand children and so much more.
When the woman looked at herself and gasped, I could only imagine what my own experience will be when I look in a mirror one day to see my ‘old self’. The transition is so gradual as we experience it on a day by day trajectory. We hardly notice the lines getting deeper, the age spots growing darker, the gray hair seeping their way down our heads. O.K. well, maybe the gray is a bit easier to see. 😉 But one day, if we’re blessed to be, we’ll be old. Our faces won’t be recognizable from who we are today. We will hold in our skin all of the life that we have lived. With and without children, with and without loss, with and without love.
These are the things that carve the features into who we are. I hope that in the future I can look at the lines on my face with pride, not scorn. That I can embrace the rolls of skin as they continue to grow. That I can lovingly look at who I am, who I’m becoming with grace and compassion.
Aging is something that everything that exists on this planet with us experiences. Even the inanimate objects rust and grow old. Since we can’t escape it, I hope to embrace it and teach my children that as I love who I am, they can love who they are, through each stage of life.