Achievements and Realities of the Aged
I have read (and I believe!) that the speed with which time seems to pass as we grow old is the biggest single surprise that any of us can have. Bill, a dear patient of mine for many years, lamented the passage of time. Bill is now in his late 80’s. His mind is still sharp, but inevitably, his body doesn’t respond as it once did. Naturally, he no longer can do the things he could do years ago.
July 21 marked the 29th anniversary of the day I opened my practice. While it has been a true blessing to care for so many patients, my experience has been bittersweet. I’ve had many sad moments as I watch patients age and physically decline. Bill is an example of this.
Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning has sold millions of copies and has been translated into many languages. He addresses the question of aging, pointing out that someone who is basically pessimistic ages with great sadness and fear, realizing that the number of pages of the calendar of life is dwindling. On the other hand, the more optimistic and positive person ages “actively.” While tearing off successive sheets of life’s calendar, this person jots down some notes on the back of each page and reflects with pride on the richness of the achievements set down in these notes and looks forward to the next page, thereby living life to the fullest.
Keeping in mind the transient nature of human existence and realizing that we all are subject to the same fate, why envy the young? For the “potential” that is inherent in the youth? Instead of potential, older people have realities – not only in the reality of work done and love loved, but also of trials and tribulations bravely endured.
Bill’s life has touched many people. And he has touched them at their core – in a very spiritual way, through his work in faith communities. While I can’t give him back his youth, I can at least remind him that his life has had immense value and has been important to others.
And given the immutable and certain nature of aging and death, isn’t that what we all hope to achieve?
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.