Growing older, a series of losses

I recently watched a video of John Piper, Tim Keller, and another guy who were talking about aging (all are now over 60 years of age) and plans they were making to pass their ministries to the next generation. Piper mentioned that his wife Noel had described aging as “A series of losses”.

When I first heard that description I at first balked, but upon reflection realized that I whole heartedly agree. At almost 66 years I know from experience some of those losses. Today I helped to unload a pallet of concrete mix (80 lb bags) onto a trailer at the hardware store where I work part-time. I was disappointed at how quickly I ran out of steam! After about 20 bags in 98 degree weather, I was temporarily exhausted. Yesterday I mowed two lawns and again was very tired after only two and a half hours.

As I mentioned in a recent post, my mind runs ahead of my body. I have all sorts of “want to” but my body often says “an’t happening”. I recently thought about a project I want to start and was all excited about getting on with it and suddenly my body said “Nap time Royce!” and so it was nap time.

The losses aging people have are both physical and mental and I believe one way to better cope with those losses is to just be honest about them. I have to work within the confines of my capabilities, however limited. That being said, I can still work circles around people many years my junior who are not motivated or are simply lazy. But, I can’t multitask as I once did when I ran a busy department for a car dealership and managed 30 employees. My memory is limited, my hearing is waning, and my patience is less available, to put it kindly.

Thankfully, we seasoned citizens have much to offer. Experience isn’t taught in universities or seminaries and wisdom it seems is mostly reserved for the people who have already made most of the mistakes humans are capable of. Don’t write a person off because they are chronologically challenged. I know and have known men who were very useful in their 80’s in their given professions. I know women who are as sharp as they get into their 90’s.

Growing older gracefully, and grace-filled is my goal. I can’t do as much but what I can do I can do well. We are often the brunt of cruel jokes and sometimes remarks meant to be innocent humor are not that to the older person who hears them. So respect me/us as we continue to rack up the losses until we gain the ultimate good, the face to face forever with our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Some losses I can’t control. And, some things I refuse to lose. I plan to exit (if cognitive) with love for others, with dignity, with honor, with loyalty, with faith, with pride, and with friendships and relationships that I cherish, most of which will outlast time.

Job 12:12


Synchronized Dying?

Perhaps it was several months after I began my second half century of living that I started to face the reality of dying. The decade of the ’90’s was the decade of death for me. Within a short time span my wife’s parents both died, she suddenly with heart failure, and he from a combination of heart ache and lung cancer. It was a tough period of our lives. My wife was not good at grieving and although it was seldom if ever mentioned, her parents deaths were always standing in the shadows of our minds. Three years later my father died and my grief was painful and lasting. And then in December of 1997, only 10 days before her 44th birthday, my Jeanine suffered a fatal heart attack. Now death was really personal, and ugly, and unavoidable forever more.

Meanwhile, in the small community where I lived in North Texas, friend after friend lost battles to cancer, heart disease, diabetes,  and old age. And, back home in the mountains of North Carolina aging aunts and uncles and alcoholic cousins were dying. I started to notice the ages of people whose obituaries were in the Dallas Morning News, and that maybe half of them were younger than me.

After being remarried to a wonderful woman in 1999 and our shared ministry to people in grief for about eight years, my personal mortality is never far from my consciousness. This month, Lord willing, I will have my 66th birthday. Sixty six years of high mileage, mostly on bad roads with little maintenance, has left me with my share of aches, pains, and scars to remind me of the “good old days”.

I don’t mind dying. I don’t dread it one bit so far as I can tell. If God and His Word are reliable (and they are!) I am not only ready, but some days eager for that transition. My problem is the distance between today and that day, whenever it is. You see, my body is aging at a faster rate than my mind. Often I’ll catch myself dreaming the dreams of a much younger man, not one who is riding at a quick gait into the sunset. I have quite a “bucket list” but most of those things are no more realistic than the visions of a little boy who hopes to take on the super-powers of his super heroes on TV.

It isn’t easy to stand flat footed and look reality full in the face. There are things I would like to do that will not happen, not only because of the brevity of life, but other reasons as well. Don’t mistake this seeming pessimism as me giving up on living, nothing could be farther from the truth. I still have a jest for living and count myself among the most fortunate to have the life I have.

I am disappointed that minds and bodies don’t usually age at the same speed. Some people’s bodies function well long after their minds have stopped being useful. Others have great minds, wonderful dreams, and fresh ideas trapped in bodies too worn out and disfunctional to give real meaning to what they imagine.

Give up? Never! Often when I go to my tool box it’s the old tools that are the best ones. Maybe it’s true as well for what some folks would consider old fools. So, I’ll keep hope alive, keep dreaming big dreams, and trusting my God and who knows? It is such hope, a fresh optimism at the start of each new day, that gives texture and vitality to living and causes an old man to walk with his face into the wind and his eyes on the horizon eager for the next challenge.

To my young friends: No, life isn’t fair. But, God is faithful! Even if you put your whole trust in Christ and follow Him the days of your life it might not end well…on earth. Good men and women, holy people, die in auto accidents, fall victim to cancer, and even are tortured and killed because of their faith. The good news is eternal life trumps all of our troubles and trials. One day the eternal day will break out and darkness and every evil will forever be no more. Live, and love, and learn, all day every day. Every life is a gift, use yours wisely.

Life is a unique gift not to be taken lightly.

Royce Ogle