My collaboration with the Griffon String Quartet in early January was delightful for all of us: the Seniors from Scandia Village, the staff from WriteOn Door County, and caretakers. I was in Fish Creek for an opportunity to write in solitude for seven days. A treat. It was my first Writing Residency.
I loved being with the elderly residents again. It’s been too long. Our collaboration centered on music and writing for the soul. And no one was disappointed. The Quartet played movements from Haydn and Brahms and I read my essays on the experiences at the bedside of my dying mother and with hospice patients. Both presentations were uplifting and were catalysts for excellent questions and a stimulating discussion. Most of the residents at our presentation were living in the independent area of the large facility and in their 80s and 90s.
I passed along some quotations by wise elders addressing the spiritual and emotional tasks of the eighth stage of development for the elderly years: ages 65 and over. I quote from three of my favorite books on aging which you might also enjoy: The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister, Oneing: Ripening Vol. 1 No. 2 by Father Richard Rohr, and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Usually, we think of the Velveteen Rabbit as a children’s classic, but it’s really about being “loved to death.” A very grown-up topic.
I hope you take time to reflect and journal on the following tidbits of wisdom addressing the spirituality of aging. If you belong to a book club, Joan Chittister’s book is full of gems for discussion.
“All human beings are continuously coming out of one part of life and going into another; clinging to what is familiar, but unable to stop ourselves from slipping into the next stage.” JC
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” E. M. Forster
“The spirituality of aging embraces the entire life journey.” R. R.
“We are all weathered by the seasons of life and gain the serenity that comes from surviving them all.” R. R.
“In our elderly years, are remaining tasks are: to honor endings, make meaning, face our fears, let go of anger, forgive, apologize, become more self-aware, and give away our gifts.” R. R. If we are doing these tasks all along, our elderly years and dying experience will be much more peaceful.
“As the fruit ripens, it fulfills itself in reaching its full potential.” R. R. Likewise, for the soul.
“For a grape to be harvested, it first must be crushed.” author unknown. I have learned through my own trials and through my own dark nights, that it was only through those periods that I matured spiritually and became more self-aware and kind.
“Everything will fall away from us, even our memories; this is the breaking of the bread.” Caryll Houselinder
Those older folks were happy. They were grateful. They asked courageous questions and offered poignant stories.
If you have a day with some time on your hands, visit a nursing home. You won’t be sorry you did.