We can't run away from aging

April 17th, 2015

Early each morning of our recent vacation, I took a low-rise beach chair from its perch above the high-tide line and moved it down to a place where the turquoise water of the Caribbean gently washes the white sand. While other guests slept in or enjoyed a late, unhurried breakfast, I preferred to sit in solitude on this long stretch of crescent beach, letting the tide lap my feet. Sometimes my husband brought his chair down to join me; other times he lounged nearby in the shade, each of us savoring the solitude, letting unspoken thoughts meander in and out like lazy waves.

The unstructured time was an opportunity to flick tiny white shells with my toes and to watch sailboats silently pass in the distance. To guess how far the next wave would stretch onto the beach. To commune with the Creator through creation.

We have returned to this same beach each year since January 2009 when we first experienced its serenity following the death of my 92-year-old mother. For the years leading up to that first visit, my life had swirled around my aging parents, like the wind around the eye of a hurricane. I was their primary caregiver, the adult child living nearest them. I wanted and needed to be close by them for support and reassurance. With every change in their lives, there was a corresponding change in mine.

After my father passed away at 89, my caregiving role became more intense. My elderly mother began a downward spiral of physical decline that lasted for more than two years. Then a few weeks after she died, my husband suggested that we get away to St. John Island for a time of renewal and rejuvenation.

With that first visit, the crescent beach became my special place to reflect on the experiences I’d had alongside my precious parents as they journeyed through aging. Since then it has also become the portal to a deeper understanding of my own mortality. Perhaps it has to do with the waves that erase my footprints. Or the realization that it’s more difficult to get out of that low-rise beach chair than it was in years past. Stretched out on the beach in an oversized cover-up, I sense God’s voice reminding me that we cannot run away from aging. Like the primeval rhythm of the ocean, it is relentless.

Behind my sunglasses, I close my eyes to the warmth of the morning sun and think about the changes that have come with these last few years of my life. There have been grandchildren and travel opportunities. New writing projects and a deeper richness to relationships. And with each new day, fresh opportunities for spiritual growth. I do not know how my journey will unfoId.

I do know there will be storms along the way. There will be times when the current knocks me to my creaky knees. But I find comfort in knowing that the One whose hand brings the waves upon the sand will steady my aging body until I am home. 

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