When I turned 40, I remember looking in the mirror and grimacing at the few gray hairs that I could thankfully stay ahead of with a pair of tweezers and a box of Clairol.
Then, when I turned 50, I noted the additional aches and pains as well as the loosening neck skin, thinning mix of gray and brown hair, and deepening crevices on my forehead and around my eyes. The brown-eyed girl in the mirror stuck out her tongue at me and chortled: ‘Girl, there’s no way to turn back time! You’re stuck with this face that’s beginning to look more like a Google map in terrain mode than the sleek, smooth surface of a well-maintained interstate.
This year, I’ll hit the Big 5-5. The girl in the mirror will no doubt have something snappy to say about that! Or will she?
All the creams, lotions and salves in the world can’t stop the relentless onslaught of new lines, wrinkles, gray hairs, and aches and pains. And that’s OK. Something happened on the way to the Big 5-5 that gave me a new perspective about growing old.
This rite of passage that those of us fortunate enough to experience doesn’t scare me anymore. In fact, I say Bring It On! Every day that I am able to slide out of my bed, go head to head with the sassy brown-eyed girl in the mirror and descend the flight of steps despite lower back and knee pain is a victory. I am reminded as I pass by my late brother, Chris’ photo that sits on my dresser that he would have loved to grow old. He would have eagerly traded in his unfortunate predicament for all the unstoppable and merciless facets that come with aging. He would have readily tolerated the aches and pains of worn-out knees, brittle bones and a strained lower back. He would have proudly transitioned from dark brown hair to a Richard Gere-like do. And he would have worn it with such grace.
My brother passed away in July 2017 from complications of a stroke. He was 56 years old. An unknown heart ailment caused the stroke that paralyzed his body two years prior. Near the end, he couldn’t speak audibly; only in whispers. He had difficulty swallowing, seeing and could not move his arms or legs. He was bedridden and wheelchair-bound.
Watching this robust, once vibrant fellow deteriorate right before my eyes with no means of rebound was beyond tragic. It was heartbreaking and heart-wrenching to watch. Prayers for his healing would not come to fruition, but being that I am a Christian, I know my brother received his healing the moment he stepped into Heaven. God promises in the Word to bring healing to His children. In Jeremiah 30:17, he said “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.” God always keeps His word. Healing may not come in this life, but it most certainly will come in the next for those who believe
My brother’s untimely death gave me a new perspective about aging. I always thought we’d grow old together, he and I. God had other plans. What my brother’s death did for me, however, could not have been more cathartic and profound. He gifted me with a new mindset, thereby changing how I view my own body and its response to aging. He bequeathed me with a renewed vigor for life and living. In dying young, he taught me how to live old. Or as old as my Creator has destined for me in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Until He calls me home, and I reunite with my awesome brother, I will embrace all the pleasant and not-so-pleasant aspects of aging.
Where as Chris couldn’t move his legs, I can. I will run and not grow weary. I will walk and not be faint. I will dance with my lover, jump with my grandchildren and skip to the beat of a new song.
Where as Chris couldn’t speak but only in whispers, I will sing praises, shout for joy and cry out to my Lord. I will use my voice to say ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘Forgive me.’
Where as he couldn’t move his arms, I will raise mine in worship, embrace a hurting friend, hold a sobbing toddler and put pen to paper to write a love story.
Where as he couldn’t eat without choking, I will savor a good steak, a hot cup of coffee and a thirst-quenching beverage. I will remember how much he loved to eat and will honor him by giving food my respect with God’s blessing.
Where as he couldn’t see well, I can with some help from my bifocals. I will appreciate every sunrise and sunset. I will search the skies for shooting stars and rainbows, and pause to admire the intricate beauty of a flower bursting with life.
How could I ever complain again about how I feel about moving, about aches or pains, gray hair and wrinkles, hearing loss or inadequate vision. My brother would have loved to experience all the changes that go along with growing old. He never got the chance to face Old Age in the mirror.
If life’s journey takes me into my twilight years, I will approach Old Age boldly and with zeal. When I come face to face with Old Age in the mirror. I may still crinkle up my nose and stick out my tongue, but I’ll do it with attitude, all furrowed brow, crow’s feet and sagging jowls to boot.
Thank you brother for giving me the fortitude to age gracefully and gratefully.