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The Hardest Part of Getting Old (The Stuff of Elders)

I'm 50.  It's safe to say that there are probably more days behind me than ahead of me and I am now an "elder" of my family.  The hardest part of getting old for anyone in my position is that, in these remaining days, you will be called upon to do the most difficult things, things you would not have been called upon to do as a child or even a young adult, if lucky, because they are the stuff of elders, and rightly so.

Most of the usual complaints about aging relate to health and body change -- diminishing eyesight and hearing, stiffness in one's bones, graying hair.  But all the while your body is changing and your faculties are diminishing, you will be called upon to do difficult things and, because of your stature as an elder, you will be expected to do those things with grace and magnanimity, and without showing grief or any self-indulgent displays of emotion.

You will be called upon to walk with loved ones who are older than you on their journey as they battle life-threatening disease -- cancer, Alzheimer's, you name it -- without showing the deeply-held fears you have about what those battles hold for them.

You will be called upon to make medical decisions for others that are literally the difference between prolonging a life no longer worth living and releasing them to God.

You will be called upon to decide when a suffering pet must die and be responsible for making that death occur.

You will be called upon to tell a elder in ill health that he can no longer drive, live by himself, or even continue to live in his own home anymore.

You will be called upon to console a grieving child facing the death of a loved one for the first time.

You will be called upon to bury your parents.

You will be called upon to radically change your life to ease the oncoming end of someone else's.

You will be called upon to change the adult diapers of your beloved elders without looking uncomfortable or inconvenienced and with a look of love on your face.

You will be called upon to give hope in the most hopeless of situations.

All of these things you will be called upon to do, all the while calling upon all the faith and home training your parents and elders instilled in you.  You won't think you can bear to do any of these things.

But you can.  And you will.  Because, as an elder, you're stronger than you know.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

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