Issue Date: July 15, 2005
By PAIGE BYRNE SHORTAL
AARP. It used to stand for American Association of Retired Persons. Now its just a set of initials. Or maybe its that exclamation of disbelief as one hits 50 -- half a century! as my sons never tire of pointing out. AARP!
Some of the clichés are true, especially the one that goes, Its here before you know it.
But the one that says, Age is just a state of mind isnt quite as true. My mind is the youngest part of me. The other day as I was carrying in groceries I realized that for a while now Ive been thinking of my body in parts. When I was younger, I never thought of my feet or back or knees or eyes or teeth. I was just one physical me and I was pretty much all right. Now I think more about the parts -- noting the ones that are breaking down, but also rejoicing in the ones that still work.
The odd thing -- one is tempted to think the unfair thing -- is that while the body parts are breaking down, I feel better than ever in other ways. I can read, write and think better than I could even five years ago. And Im happier, more content, more satisfied with the idea of settling in for the long haul. Thats a lovely feeling.
I think the soaring spirit within the gradually (I hope) failing body points to the beyond. I mean, what would be the sense of growing a large spirit if it werent going to be used somehow? It would be like a child in the womb growing eyes that would never see the beloved; hands that would never hold and embrace; a mouth that would never taste or speak. The growing Spirit within us and the increasingly generous heart is a kind of sacrament of heaven -- a sign that we continue after the body is no more.
To quote a birthday card from an amusing friend: Fifty isnt the end of the world but you can see it from here! What a blessing it is to have time and the inclination to get ready.
Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.
National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2005
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