Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Matters (when you can't take care of you)

Some of us will make it within spitting distance of 100. Most of us will some day depend on other bodies to care for our body. I have the privilege of providing that care right now, and observing what matters in these years. For instance: 

You taught your children self-sufficiency. You gave them full awareness of their own personhood. When it is time for someone to represent the voice you no longer have, they aren’t still striving to maintain a falsehood of needing you with them. With great loss, and tremendous courage, they advocate on behalf of your body and soul.

You built love with a partner based in truth, compassion, and passion. It helps if you laughed a lot, because when this partner has to face tending to your most undignified needs, you’ll want them to get you so tickled you toot in the bathtub. And, this partner knows you too well to cling to a shell of you.

You opened borders and created community. A walled off life is a secluded one, in health and sickness. The crowd at your bedside get smaller as the years go by, unless you created a legacy that parents shared with their children, and that got soaked up by grands and great grands of the genetic, adopted or spiritual varieties. A little diversity here is extra special.

You let others sit with you in your suffering. You let them see a few warts. They grew to admire your courage and generosity all the more because of them, and won’t be afraid to face the diminished you.

You took terrifying leaps of fun and adventure. You drift away from full physical strength, and toward death with a heap of memories; and no regrets about forgetting to stray from the American dream, and the Protestant work ethic in favor of a day at the park, or a journey abroad, or deeps acts of charity.

You tended to your body. At this point, how little or much your thighs jiggled in youth won't matter. This isn’t about bringing sexy back. Rather, about priming your body for the years when other bodies bear the burden of moving you, and supporting you. You’ll live longer, and enjoy the waning years more with moderate attention to tune ups.

Modern medicine gives us so many extra years, but we forgot to prepare along the way for what comes at the end. The grace, courage, and love you infuse into your world now, will follow you all the days of your life.

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