Tag Archives: Aging

The Crabby Old Lady

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was believed that she had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland.

The old lady’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on her simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this “anonymous” poem winging across the Internet

Crabby Old woman
What do you see, nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit,
With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe?

Who, resisting or not,
Let’s you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding,
The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse,
You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am
As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters,
Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen
With wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now
A lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,

My heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows

That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,

I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide

And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,

My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other

With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons

Have grown and are gone,

But man’s beside me

To see I don’t moan.

At fifty once more,

Babies play round my knee,

Again we know children

My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,

My husband is dead,
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman
And nature is cruel;
‘Tis jest to make old age
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again,
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman;
Look closer . . . see ME!!


Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might
brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . we will all,
one day, be there, too! In fact it might be me.


Time to Downsize?

Some months ago, we began the arduous task of selling our home in the country See www.countrywindow.caand downsizing. We needed to reduce everything so we could fit into an apartment less than half the size.

We got radical! I agonized over what books to cull in order to reduce my library by three quarters or more. Mary Helen began giving away her unique spoons and teacups to grandchildren. I rejoiced to find two people in ministry to whom I could entrust the collection of illustrations and topical subjects I’d gathered over fifty years. But how to condense five filing cabinets of records into one? Some of the heirloom items passed on to us, we gave to our kids and grandkids. Every week the garage guys wondered about the number of bags at the curb.

We loved our country property with its mature trees and gurgling stream. If possible, we would have gladly waited for the Lord to take us home from that idyllic spot. Why then pour ourselves into such a stressful task? It was time.

The urge to simplify and de-clutter makes good sense at any time. We all saddle ourselves with too much stuff. But as we age, we hit a critical time when downsizing becomes not just a wise choice but an urgent necessity. Haven’t we all heard too many horror stories of seniors who die leaving a home stuffed with junk for their relatives to get rid of? Such a legacy is cruel. Here then are a few questions we asked ourselves that might help you make a similar choice.

Is our home cluttered? One look in my closet told me that Mary Helen was right. “You haven’t worn some shirts for years! Get rid of them.” And a survey of the two levels of our house demonstrated that we had too many knickknacks, too Movingmany paintings, and too many family photos. And the garage! Tools, I’d never use again. All kinds of stuff that I once thought I’d use. The decision made, we took many trips to local charities with useable items from our abundance. Other stuff just needed to be taken to the dump.

Is our health weakened? The list of prescriptions we take, tell us the answer is, “yes.’ For some time now our family has warned me about using ladders. And yet there were windows to wash and gutters to clear. There were dead trees to fell. A realistic appraisal of our health, made us realize that we need to live where maintenance would become another’s responsibility.

Is our energy diminished? Mary Helen and I both scratch our heads about a mystery. Where has all our youthful energy gone? Weariness creeps up on us unexpectedly. It’s obviously time to sort out family memories to keep and toss out useless files while we still have some energy. Better to expend what energy we have on preserving and passing on memories and heritage rather than cutting grass.

Is our mobility reduced? With our washing machine down a flight of stairs, Mary Helen had found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the washing of clothes. With a knee replacement, I tackled stairs very gingerly. And we lived at some distance from town with its shopping and doctors’ offices. Time to move to an apartment building in town with an elevator where we can have everything on one level.


Does this mean we should now mop and moan about our past? No way. New vistas of enjoyment have opened for us in town. We live near a beach and harbour. We can still see birds from our apartment window. And we can walk to a local coffee shop. Restaurants are nearby. Taking a jaunt into the surrounding countryside is still an option. Doctors’ appointments now are not 30 minutes or an hour away.

We’re so glad the Lord graciously nudged us to downsize and move to a place more suited to our current limitations. Have you considered downsizing or de-cluttering? Why not take the step while you can?

A Season for Aches and Aging?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASummer and fall is a wonderful time of harvest. Apple season came as sweet corn season wound down. Some vegetables, like beans, carrots, cucumbers, and Swiss chard seem to do well throughout the summer and into the first weeks of fall. Other crops are short-lived: strawberries, cherries, blue-berries, and our own lettuce. Every year I look forward to real field ripened tomatoes which don’t become available here until late July. But the seasons quickly pass.

The wise author of Ecclesiastes tells us that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to weep and a time to laugh”(Eccl. 3:1,2,4).

This is certainly true of the seasons of the year. It’s also true of the seasons of life: childhood, youth, marriage, family, career, retirement. There is a time for leisure and fun. But a time for aches and pains, for wrinkles and balding, for sleepless nights? It’s called aging. No matter what creams and treatments we use, we can’t do more than disguise it. Oh, sure, the good health care we enjoy in the west and the nutritious foods we eat have contributed to putting it off a little longer. But aging is inevitable.

And yet aging is hard to accept. I look with nostalgia and a little envy at the energy of younger people; those who can play tennis with verve, hike all day, andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA climb mountains. Right on, I say. Enjoy it as long as you can. I used to walk fast, hike through dense bush and climb steep hills without pausing for breath. Now I have a replacement knee and a miscellany of other conditions—some rather benign, some more serious.

There are always exceptional people who laugh in the face of aging. My jaw drops open when I watch some ninety-year old run a marathon. Along with everyone, I celebrate his or her achievement. But when a whole gamut of gurus imply that we could all share his health if only we subscribed to a certain regimen of supplements or exercise, I shake my head. Oh, is that so? Take this vitamin or that? Eat more kale? Can we really neutralize the effects of aging? Are we all nothing but the product of our lifestyle? Are there no differences between us? Can we really escape the inevitability of our DNA? Of course, the gurus are making lots of money pretending we can.

Sorry, I’m a skeptic. Now, I believe in eating nutritious natural foods including lots of fresh vegetables and fruit along with exercising as much as possible. I believe in postponing the inevitable as much as any. But! And this is a big but. There is also a time to accept the reality of our fragile humanity. The quicker we accept actuality, the happier we will be.

Why? Because we are fallen creatures, along with everything else in creation, creatures who have inherited decay and deterioration as a result of the space-time fall from innocence. With all creation we groan as we wait for Christ to return to remake our fallen world. “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us….the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of Colour across a hay fieldGod…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption our bodies”(Romans 8:18, 20, 21, 23).

So, instead of grinding our teeth in the face of the inevitable, let us lift up our eyes as we look into a future that is as bright as the promises of God—a future in which our body will be transformed like Christ’s body, free from pain and aging. And until that day, let’s accept the season we’re in.

Spring Reminds Me to Celebrate Youth

In the spring we gaze in awe at the flush of new growth we see all around us. The reviving trees paint the whole countryside with a coat of vibrant, light green. Basswood spring leavesHow to describe this astounding colour? Is it lime green? Not quite. Emerald green; closer but not as dark. Sea green may be closer still. Perhaps bottle green? Whatever the technical term might be, we love how the Creator decorates the hillsides with a thousand subtle shades of spring green. So fresh. So alive.

It reminds us of the vibrancy of young life. The wonder we feel at the birth of a new baby. The energy and excitement of a child. The awesome potential of a young person with his or her whole life ahead. It’s wonderful to celebrate along with youth the hope and dreams they feel.

Many of us older folks remain vibrant and hopeful but sometimes our aches and pains and sorrows make us somewhat jaded and world-weary. Admittedly, there are children who are obnoxious and young people who have a dark and hopeless view of life. But ???????????????????????????????too often we find unnecessary fault with the antics of a child, the perceived carelessness of a teenager, or the brash self-confidence of a twenty-something. Could our irritation be rooted in envy? Or perhaps nostalgia?

Older and younger, we need each other to achieve balance in life. Sadly, the modern breakup of families has left many of us without any positive experience of the warmth of an extended family; children, parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins. We segregate everyone into age brackets: Gen X, Baby Boomers, Millennials, and so on. It may help marketers but it’s not healthy.

Every year has a spring, summer, fall and winter and every human needs connection with people of every age and experience. Pers???????????????????????????????onally, I don’t find living in a senior’s ghetto attractive at all. (To some it may be just what they need.) But most of us seniors need to rub shoulders with children and young people—and they need us older folks. Perhaps some of their joie de vivre will rub off on us and some of our wisdom on them. Perhaps we’ll become more tolerant, better adjusted, less jaded and gloomy. Didn’t Jesus rebuke the disciples for hindering children from coming to him?

Having Vibrant Souls

Our vegetable garden is starting to look pitiful. The beets have stopped growing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAas have the carrots. The tomato plants are shriveling, the beans slowing their production, and even our prolific cucumbers are disappointing. In the flower garden, the perennials are fading.

Since everything has a season, all this is very natural. But what about me? I look down at my hand—and see liver spots! Ugly. My hair is thinning and greying. My sleep is often interrupted. My walking is curtailed. Should I take up a lament?

The Apostle Paul suggests; “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16,18).

This ‘outward wastinaging handg’ is part of the human condition. Paul suggests that we not let this aging process discourage. Instead he urges us to focus on our inward selves, the unseen and eternal part of us which can be renewed day by day.

The Bible calls that inward, invisible part of us our soul or spirit. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”(Matt. 22:37). (Although some Christians believe that we are composed of three parts; body, soul, and spirit; my study of the Scriptures has led me to believe that soul, spirit, and heart are often used interchangeably. And thus, in my view we have two parts: one temporal—the body, and one eternal—the soul/spirit/heart.)

Our emotions, intellect, and will reside in our souls. So even though our bodies may deteriorate, our souls can thrive. While marketing gurus focus on beautifying our bodies and hiding our aging, we can please God by looking to Him to beautify our souls. How? Through attention to the Scriptures and a life of prayer.

Throughout its pages, the Bible urges all disciples to cultivate soul-health. “Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble],… those who mourn [are honest about themselves],… the meek,… those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,… the merciful,… the pure in heart,…the peacemakers”(Matt. 5:3-9). We can ask the Holy Spirit to produce in us “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”(Gal. 5:22,23).

As we approach that time of life when our bodies fail, we can give more attentionOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA to the state of our soul. And isn’t that what the world needs anyway, more beautiful souls? People like Joni Earkson-Tada who has blessed so many disabled and others. People like Amy Carmichael who from a bed of illness rescued Indian temple prostitutes. People like Joy Ridderhof, also laid aside by illness, who conceived of recording the Gospel in all the world’s languages.

And so Lord, as my life becomes somewhat physically circumscribed, help me to give more and more attention to cultivating love in all its facets. Prepare my soul for eternity by using me until then to bless others.

Aging and Losing Control

The summer sun beckons me outdoors for a hike. But my knees won’t cooperate. Grr! Dead branches on our cedars need trimming. But I’m warned not to climb ladders. But I don’t feel old inside! And yet reality has begun to seriously limit both Mary Helen’s and my activities. It’s frustrating. As I think about it, I realize that it’s all about losing control.

Ever since Satan whispered to Adam and Eve that they would be like God, autonomous and knowing all things, we have all faced control issues. We innately want to be in control of our daily life, our destiny, and especially our bodies. Our body is our own, after all. One of the main things many people hate about the biblical revelation of our infinite, self-sufficient, sovereign God; He doesn’t need us but we need Him and He rules the universe.Walking stick

Through much of life, the vibrancy of a person’s health may enable him to ignore God. But aging brings us face to face with actuality. We are not sovereign, only God is. Instead of being in control of our running and jumping and sleeping—all of our activities—our aging bodies limit us. And it aggravates us.

Observation should have told us, even when we were young, that life is beyond our control. We can’t change the weather. We can’t avoid accidents. Six weeks ago Mary Helen suffered a concussion due to a freak happening. We can’t predict the stock market. We don’t know what our health will be like tomorrow. We can’t change our DNA.

Now it is true that modern societies have been able to engineer relatively safe and healthy environments. And yet there remains an enormous unpredictability to life. Mature people realize this and plan for the unexpected. Most, however, still rail against circumstances and buy lottery tickets in the vain hope that their ship will come in.

I think I understand. In spite of being a Christian for over 60 years, it seems like I haven’t yet learned, like the Apostle Paul, to be content in all circumstances. What circumstances he endured! Five times he received 39 lashes. He was stoned, beaten 3 times with rods, shipwrecked three times. He endured imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights and hunger. He wrote from prison, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”(Phil. 4:11-12). What was the secret? A verse I’ve claimed throughout the years, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”(Phil. 4:13).

Surely if Paul, under such dire and changing circumstances, could feel content, we ought to accept our lot with equanimity—especially the inevitability of aging. The secret, of course, is looking to our divine Shepherd, remembering that He said, “And surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

And so, whether young or older, let’s pray, Lord help me to accept what I cannot change without grumbling and griping and self-pity.

Aging and Envy

 I leaned back on our living room sofa, and gazed through the skylight. The leaves on the toAging birchp-most branches of a majestic white birch fluttered in the breeze. But wait! Something was wrong. Some of the branches were dying. Our beautiful birch has a disease called, birch die-back.

I feel more and more like that aging birch. A decade and a half ago doctors found blocked arteries that were inoperable. That stopped all hiking. As the years went by, sleeping through a whole night became a memory. Then came more frequent visits to the dentist and the optometrist. Now arthritic knees has rendered my daily walk painful or non-existent.

Don’t misunderstand me. I know my distress cannot compare to those who endure debilitating diseases. I view those who bear chronic disability or terminal cancer with cheerfulness as true heroes. I’m in awe of them.Aging Poplar

But to be honest, this whole aging business is challenging. I always expected to burn out rather than rust out. Obviously, I need perspective, especially when I see young people, even people in their forties and fifties, in vibrant health. Running. Hiking. Cycling. Canoeing. Playing hockey. Traveling the world. It’s not fair.

I think that’s envy talking. And envy clouds reality, stifles joy, shrivels thankfulness, and throttles praise. Proverbs 14:30 warns us that; “Envy rots the bones.” I sure don’t need any more deterioration in that area. Envy corrodes the heart and distorts all motivation. Envy led Cain to kill his brother, Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, and the priests and Pharisees to betray Christ. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice”(James 3:16).

How should I handle envy? Just stop moaning and face the facts? Okay, but a little help please. Fortunately God has promised help. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you….I will carry you.” (Isaiah 46:4).

How will He sustain us? By His Spirit who lives within us. As we live in dependence on the Spirit, He will replace envy and all the dark machinations of the sinful nature with the loving fruit of the Spirit. (See Gal. 5:19-26.) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy”(1 Cor. 13:4). Do I love young people? Do I love those who can do what I can’t do? Can I give thanks to God for all I was able to do when I was younaging handg and all that others are now able to do?

As we yield to the Spirit, he will help us, on the one hand, to face reality without losing hope. We live in a fallen world among dying people. As the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there will come a time; “when strong men stoop [arthritis], when the grinders cease because they are few, [loss of teeth], and those looking through the windows grow dim; [poor eyesight], when…the sounds of grinding [of a mill] fades [hearing weakens] …and desire no longer is stirred [libido dwindles]”(Eccl. 12:3,4,5).

Even as the Spirit enables us to face the facts, He counters morbidity by giving us a vision of eternity. Although, “all men are like grass…the grass withers and the flowers fall;” yet of believers in Jesus it is said, “You have been born again, not of  perishable seed but imperishable”(1 Peter 1:24, 23). Our soul will pass through the vale untouched by mortality. Jesus will welcome us to our eternal home where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). This hWalking stickeavenly vision, through the Spirit, will counter our natural tendency to become grouchy, and sad. And in the process, we may be able to encourage the younger generation to cherish their health and the opportunities for service it provides. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them”(Eccl.12:1).

I’ll intersperse future blogs about bear sightings and growing where we’re planted with several more meditations on aging.