The Burdens and the Blessings of Aging

Today a memorial happened online for my cousin who recently passed away. She was the same age as me, and even had the same name – and I missed most of it because I forgot to set my alarm.

Aging is not fun at all, especially when it comes to the loss of short term memory. 

But my sadness was tempered after listening to the comments in the recorded version of the memorial gathering. So many people loved my cousin. This understanding helped me realize that I did not know her as well as I should have, even though we grew up together and loved each other very much. 

Also, I experienced a calming element as the memorial progressed – I absolutely know that I will join her soon, if the Creator doesn’t have a different plan. God, after all, has an unlimited sense of humor.

RELATED: I Woke Up and Knew I Was Going to Die

As far as my own health situation, I continuously struggle with my up and down low-to-high blood pressure, and because of the cancer, very gradually my breathing difficulty increases. I am happy and grateful that my pain is not high enough to require mind-numbing medication. I am at peace with the world right now, and truly looking forward to my own passing – which the Baha’i teachings call “a messenger of joy:” “O Son of the Supreme!Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote in his book The Hidden Words, “I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?

This makes me look forward to my second birth, the passage from this physical plane of existence to the next spiritual plane. In a speech he gave in New York in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha – the son and successor of Baha’u’llahsaid:

I exhort you to be devoted to your spiritual development. Just as you have striven along material lines and have attained to high degrees of worldly advancement, may you likewise become strengthened and proficient in the knowledge of God. May divine susceptibilities be increased and awakened; may your devotion to the heavenly Kingdom become intense. May you be the recipients of the impulses of the Holy Spirit, be assisted in the world of morality and attain ideal power so that the sublimity of the world of mankind may become apparent in you. Thus may you attain the highest happiness, the eternal life, the everlasting glory, the second birth, and become manifestations of the bestowals of God.

I tried to keep that hopeful message in mind when I had a crisis with my blood pressure a few days ago. It was dangerously high, and for the first time I took a new medication prescribed by my cardiologist, which slowly brought down my blood pressure. I’m a little apprehensive of the possibility of cerebral stroke, which could make me even more of a burden to my loved ones, as well as not being able to do things that I can do now.

One happy point: I continue attaining “the highest happiness” by finding new friends among the residents and patients in my long term care facility. I’m meeting people with varying degrees of dementia, particularly some of the newcomers. I love them, and my love keeps increasing, and I can really see that they feel recognition in them of my love. I no longer think of them as “those people” as I did during the first week of my moving here. What a blessing to have so many family members who I love!

When I was younger, I knew that one day I would be old. Then, “old” meant 50, poor, alone, and sick. I look back now and think: what arrogance on my part, thinking that I know more than God, the God I denied vehemently! I am now 87, and even though I’m not rich, I’m certainly not poor. I am single, and I am surrounded by loved ones among the residents and staff. I have cancer and some other health issues, but I do not consider myself sick. 

Maybe being this old is the secret of my understanding now. I am so grateful to God. I feel so blessed.

I had a wakeful night last night, and was dead tired during whole of the day. In my care facility, we are going to have a discussion in a couple of days about entering the hospice care system. So far I haven’t considered enrolling in hospice, because I don’t consider myself in need of it at this point, but my blood pressure crisis today brought the matter to full understanding – which made me grateful that such facilities are available.

RELATED: Dealing with My Emotions as Death Awaits

So today I enrolled in the hospice care system, even though I am not feeling too sick – but it is better to tie up all the loose ends now, rather than leave it to my angel friends to do it when I am not capable of taking care of such issues. To some people, especially those who haven’t inwardly prepared themselves for their second birth, these steps might seem like a calamity – but all of this makes me feel happy and relieved.

In The Hidden Words, Baha’u’llah wroteMy calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit.” 

I have a dear friend here who is experiencing a progressive case of Alzheimer’s. Just recently the degree and speed of degradation in her mental abilities has increased. For some reason, I seem to be the only one she can trust. When I visit her, her eyes light up, and when she is in a rage I seem to be able to reach and calm her down. I love her so much that my heart seems to be bursting when I see and reach her, and I also want to cry for her suffering. I’m so thankful to God for giving me this opportunity. I know, before too long, that I may lose my friend’s awareness of me, but for now, I have a chance to be of some help.

I am grateful to God for all He is providing for me now, and I’m eagerly waiting for the day when He calls me home whenever that time comes. For now, I have to cultivate further – much further! – the virtues of patience and deeper love for my fellow human beings.

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