Aging Gracefully

The Ides of March! Unlike their foreboding implication, I welcome March 15 each year, because I know that spring is not far away. In spite of the present grayness and gloom, I know that sunny days are ahead.

The seasons are so unlike life. We always know it won’t be long until green newness arrives everywhere. But life isn’t like that. When we feel gray and old, we look forward only to getting older. Lately I’ve been thinking of the phrase “growing old gracefully.” On one hand, I’d like to be put in that category; on the other hand, I prefer to age kicking and screaming against the injustice of it all as I slowly lose abilities I always took for granted, such as a good memory.

I find myself analyzing people’s wrinkles—does she have more or fewer than I do? Which of us looks older? I wonder if she’s using face cream or if she’s just letting it go. Such pondering reminds me of a couple of conversations I had with my mother who still had lovely skin at age 85.

I stood by her bed, holding her hand as we waited for her to be picked up for surgery.

“Your skin feels so dry,” I said. “Do you want me to rub your face with my face cream?”

“Oh, yes! Please do,” she said.

As I gently stroked her face, I thought of the instructions she’d given me since I was a teenager about how to apply face cream. That’s beside the point now, I thought, but I was wrong.

She said, “Now be sure to rub in upward motions. An Elizabeth Arden clerk told me long ago to rub upward when applying face cream in order to avoid wrinkles.”

I looked at her in amazement that it would still matter to her at this point–and that she thought she was telling me something I didn’t know. Smiling, I said, “Well, it’s obviously worked for you. Your skin is beautiful.” And it was. Though she was 22 when I was born, we had about the same amount of wrinkles.

She survived that surgery and months later was still in rehab. The bright sun came through the window and shone directly on me as I stood by her bed.

Peering at me, she said, “Honey, you need to use some cream on your face. You’ve got lots of wrinkles.”

Thanks, Mother! I thought.

But I said, “Oh, I do, Mother. But unfortunately I inherited the Bradley skin instead of your beautiful smooth skin.” All true. In fact, following her earlier advice, I probably spend more a year on face creams than she has in a lifetime.

She lived Psalm 73: 25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. “

Did she age gracefully? I guess she did, for she maintained a lively spirit no matter what her physical condition. If that’s what’s meant by aging gracefully, I’m all for it. I don’t want to be seen as one who is getting older and not wiser or one that focuses on aging rather than on life.

Last week I heard a woman about my age say, “I don’t look in the mirror any more. I don’t want to focus on wrinkles; I’m too busy for that.” I like that and am inspired to have the same philosophy.

There’s a great post on the HOPE blog that has excellent points about aging. Thanks, Ingrid, for great insights.

What are your thoughts on getting older?



  1. Kenda

    Great subject–and I just checked out the link. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

    I like your take on aging gracefully: "a lively spirit." I think I would add, "a thankful AND joyful spirit" as well. That's what I hope to aim for, anyway. Wrinkles won't matter then, will they?

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