What is Sacred Aging?
After all, aging itself is quite challenging and when you add being sacred to it.
As we age, our world begins to shrink, and yes, most of us, also get shorter. Physically we cannot do all things we did when younger. Our social relationships also decrease as family members and friends either move away or die. Our senses begin to diminish and our abilities to remember and use our minds as we once did become less sharp.
During all these challenges of aging, it becomes quite a task to live a sacred life and bring the presence of God, the holy, into our daily life. If we are to age, however, in a way that is sacred we need to try to find a path that will help us achieve this goal.
What then is it to live a sacred life? It is to live a life in which there is an awareness of the presence of God that calls for a commitment to moral and spiritual behavior that raises the person’s life from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. As God is elevated above the profane, so too should we attempt to live a life in which our thoughts, words, and actions are also elevated above the profane. Then we meet God in the middle and our life, clothed in the divine, is lived in a way that is sacred.
One of those human behaviors that I believe seniors need to work on to live a sacred life is to stop holding on to grudges. I have known so many people in my personal and professional life who just cannot let go of the hurts they suffered from other people; they just cannot forgive or forget. Holding on to grudges brings that person down because it just weighs them down in the past, not allowing them to move forward into the future. It thereby makes it difficult to allow God into their lives because the doors to a productive and positive life are just mired in the mud of anger and sometimes even revenge.
I once met a 95-year-old woman named Florence. I asked her to tell me about her life’s experiences and she told me about Rose and how angry she was at Rose for trying to take her husband away from her. I said when did this happen, and Florence said, “Oh, when I was 25 years old.” When I asked Florence if Rose was still living and maybe it is time to forgive her, Florence said, “No, she died long ago but I hated her then and I still hate her now.”
I can recall walking into a patient’s room at a local New York hospital while making my rounds as chaplain. When the patient saw my identification badge with my name on it, she asked me my parents’ names. After I told her, she then said to me that she was my mother’s first cousin. I was in my early thirties at the time and had never met her or heard of her. I called my mother up and told her about my meeting her cousin. My mother later told me that these parts of the family were estranged from each other. Both women’s mothers had a fight because one had not attended a funeral the other thought she should have been at. They had never spoke again nor had their daughters. Both mothers had died, but the daughters, my mother and her cousin, had never reunited the two families. With my hospital meeting, the families once again came back together, and I have since officiated at weddings and funerals on that side of my newly re-found family.
Did Florence achieve anything positive by not letting go of her hatred toward Rose? Was there anything positive that came from the two women not letting go of their mothers’ grudges regarding attending a funeral? I think the answer in both cases is a resounding, “No.”
Negative thoughts and actions breed negative results and such negativity blocks the presence of God in our lives. This inhibits the aging of a life that should be sacred and worthy of God’s blessings. Let us choose this life and its blessings. Let go and live!