Well… Today is our 37th wedding anniversary. My parents celebrated their 71st year last month. It’s telling. Everybody knows the old age market is growing. I can attest to that. In his book, “Living Life Backwards” by David Gibson, speaks wisdom about old age and how to experience the beauty of Christ when it comes:
Beautiful Old Age
Softly, oh softly, the years have swept by thee,
Touching thee lightly with tenderest care:
Sorrow and care did they often bring nigh thee,
Yet they have left thee but beauty to wear.
Old age is the harvest of all the years that have gone before. It is the barn into which all the sheaves are gathered. It is the seas into which all the rills and rivers of life flow from their springs in the hills and valleys of youth and manhood. We are each, in all our earlier years, building the house in which we shall have to live when we grow old. And we may make it a prison or a palace. We may make it very beautiful, adorning it with taste and filling it with objects that will minister to our pleasure, comfort and power. We may cover the walls with lovely pictures. We may spread luxurious couches of ease on which to rest. We may lay up in store great supplies of provision upon which to feed in the days of hunger and feebleness. We may gather and pile away large bundles of wood to keep the fires blazing brightly in the long winter days and nights of old age.
Or we may make our homes gloomy, we may hang the chamber walls with horrid pictures, covering them with ghastly spectres that will look down upon us and haunt us, filing our souls with terror when we sit in the gathering darkness of life’s nightfall. We may make beds of thorns to rest upon. We may lay up nothing to feed upon in the hunger and craving of declining years. We may have no fuel ready for winter fires.
We may plant roses to bloom about our doors and fragrant gardens to put their perfume about us, or we may sow weeds and briers to flaunt themselves in our faces as we sit in the doorways in the gloaming.
All old age is not beautiful. All old people are not happy. Some are very wretched, with hollow, sepulchral lives. Many an ancient palace was built over a dark dungeon….
… it may have abundant comforts and much that tells of prosperity in an outward sense-wealth, honours, friends, the pomp and circumstance of greatness-but it is only a palace built over a gloomy dungeon of memory, up from whose deep and dark recesses come evermore voices of remorse and despair to sadden and embitter every hour and to cast shadows over every lovely picture and every bright scene.
The important practical question is, How can we so live that our old age, when it comes, shall be beautiful and happy? It will not do to adjourn this question until the evening shadows are upon us. It will be too late to consider it. Consciously or unconsciously, we are every day helping to settle the question whether our old age shall be sweet and peaceful or bitter and wretched. It is worth our while, then, to think a little how to make sure of a happy old age.
We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness and selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death. It is the running stream that keeps pure and sweet. The fruit of an idle life is never joy and peace. Years lived selfishly never become garden-spots in the field of memory. Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others. Sweet always are the memories of good deeds done and sacrifices made. Their incense, like heavenly perfume, comes floating up from the fields of toil and fills old age with holy fragrance. When one has lived to bless others, one has many grateful, loving friends whose affection proves a wondrous source of joy when days of feebleness come. Bread cast upon waters is found again after many days. ...
Again, we must live a pure and holy life. Every one carries in himself the sources of his own happiness or wretchedness. Circumstances have very little to do with our inner experiences. It matters little in the determination of one’s degree of enjoyment whether he lives in a cottage or a palace. It is self, after all, that in largest measure gives colour to our skies and the tone to the music we hear. A happy heart sees rainbows and brilliance everywhere, even in the darkest clouds, and hears sweet strains of song even amid the loudest wailings of the storm: and a sad heart, unhappy and discontented, sees sots in the sun, specks in the rarest fruits, and something with which to find fault in the most perfect of God’s works, and hears discords and jarring notes in the heavenliest music. So it comes about that this whole question must be settled from within. The fountain rises in the heart itself. The old man, like the snail, carries his house on his back. He may change neighbours or homes or scenes or companions, but he cannot get away from himself and his own past. Sinful years put thorns in the pillow on which the head of old age rests. Lives of passion and evil store away bitter fountains from which the old man has to drink.
Sin may seem pleasant to us now, but we must not forget how it will appear when we get past it and turn to look back on it: especially we must keep in mind how it will seem fro a dying pillow. Nothing brings such pure peace and quiet joy at the close as a well-lived past. We are every day laying up the food on which we must feed in the closing years. We are hanging up pictures about the walls of our hearts that we shall have to look at when we sit in the shadows. How important that we live pure and holy lives! Even forgiven sins will mar the peace of old age, for the ugly scars will remain.
Summing all up in one, only Christ can make any life, young or old, truly beautiful or truly happy. Only He can cure the heart’s restless fever and give quietness and calmness. Only He can purify that sinful fountain within us, our corrupt nature, and make us holy. To have a peaceful and blessed ending to life, we must live it with Christ. Such a life grows brighter even to its close. Its last days are the sunniest and the sweetest. The more earth’s joys fail, the nearer and the more satisfying the comforts become. The nests over which the wing of God droops, which in the bright summer days of prosperous strength lay hidden among the leaves, stand out uncovered in the days of decay and feebleness when winter has stripped the branches bare. And for such a life death has no terrors. The token of its approach are but “the land-birds lighting on the shrouds, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the haven.” The end is but the touching of the weatherbeaten keel on the shore of glory.