Today I visited my dear friend G. In hospice.
G is just a few years older than I am and has pancreatic cancer.
He also has a thousand watt smile that still lights up the room. A sharp mind and beautifully articulate voice. A fortitude that defies his prognosis and yet a dignified and reasoned acceptance of his fate. He is an absolute marvel.
So is his mother. She just turned 103 and today he said with resignation and also perhaps a tiny bit of pride “She will probably outlive me.”
When I left my dear friend after our visit I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude not only for knowing him and loving him but gratitude to have been given a chance to share THIS part of his journey too. Gratitude for ALL the memories we made. And yes – maybe selfishly – gratitude that I am still here on this planet, alive and ready to kick some more.
And then I got to thinking about the concept, typically applied only to women, about aging “gracefully.” I just read a Facebook post about this and I think (could be wrong) what that poster meant was aging “naturally.” So I wondered – who decided that natural and graceful were synonymous? And why is graceful so important? I mean damn, sometimes I’m as clumsy as an ox and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be a fan of wrinkles and gray hair. You know, on me. On MY person.
And then it hit me. Aging “gracefully” is simply not on my agenda. If it’s on yours, and by the way you can define gracefully any way you like, then yay … go for it. But if you want to Botox your forehead and plump up those lips … go for it! Wash that gray right out of your hair … do it and go blonde! Get laser treatments and chemical peels and facials and a face-lift … it is YOUR call. And no one can tell you that you are not aging “gracefully” just because you would like to look as young as you feel.
By the way I think Jane Fonda is aging FABULOUSLY and fully admits to getting work done. I also believe so is Ali McGraw (remember Love Story?) and apparently she is all original.
The truth is – I do not care how you age.
What matters to me, for you AND for me, is that we are granted the privilege of aging. Whichever “higher power” deals those cards, or even if it is just random dumb luck, what matters to me is that IF we are given the opportunity to age we chose to age GRATEFULLY.
We don’t waste a single moment of the moments we have left. We love deeply and truly. We feel every emotion and heck, appreciate even the bad ones because every emotion reminds us that we are still in the game. We check in with the big picture, do not sweat the small stuff, express appreciation every single day and stop judging anyone, even backhandedly, for their choices.
We are all rare and beautiful individuals on unique journeys that, oddly enough, will end in the exact same place. G and I talked about that today. And as I love to say (in my best southern drawl) – “We all gonna die!”
So how we choose to LIVE, how we choose to facilitate our golden years – should we be so fortunate to enjoy them – is as exclusive as our fingerprints. You are the architect of ALL of your life.
Gratitude is such a simple thing. And yet a thing that some of us forget to express, feel and LIVE IN on a daily basis. Which I think is why I have blogged about it more than once. We ALL forget. We ALL need reminders. We ALL get so caught up in minutiae that we forget to be grateful for every single breath.
Those breaths are numbered.
I’m going to say that one more time my friends – THOSE BREATHS ARE NUMBERED.
Don’t waste them.
Be whoever it is you want to be in whatever package makes you feel yourself and do NOT let anyone else tell you you’re doing it wrong.
Just be grateful that you are still here.
Just like G.