Editor’s note: With this post, we inaugurate “Kol Bo,” a new section on JewishSacredAging.com devoted to written contributions of poetry and essays from our community that don’t fit under the headings of our other areas of practice. “Kol Bo” means “All is in it,” and is an allusion to a collection of Jewish ritual and civil laws, the authorship of which is unknown.
The funny thing about old age
The funny thing about old age is
once you’re old—over fifty, say—
it doesn’t feel old. It feels the same
as when you’re twenty or even younger.
At least my brain feels the same.
But my body tells me something different,
as if its aches and pains are coded
messages from a foreign country
I never expected to enter.
Time becomes more precious as
it becomes scarcer. The days move
more quickly and it’s a continuing mystery
where they go. Secrets you never expected
to find out about yourself are revealed.
Life is disappearing before your eyes,
even as your love of life grows deeper
and your gratitude increases each day for
every moment you’re given.
I can hear the warnings repeat themselves
each night. “You are now entering dangerous
territory.” Or “Once you cross the border,
beware of more likelihood of falls, illness,
That’s the funny thing about old age.
You don’t feel old until you are.
You come to know
You come to know a different kind of pain
when you get older—an ache that comes from
deeper in your heart, a pain that tells you
the days are getting shorter, the nights longer,
and sleep refuses to come.
It’s the ache of longing to live, knowing life
cannot last forever, the ache of knowing
life has to come to an end one day, and that each
day brings that day closer, and you cannot slow time
or change direction.
It’s the ache of seeing the end coming
and not being able to avoid it, no matter
how much you might wish and hope and pray…
life is set, you live and you die.
All living creatures are given
a certain amount of time on earth
and then disappear…returning to
their breath or to dust or to whatever.
And so you come to learn how
to live with pain. Most days you can
ignore it, and live your life as if you’re
eighteen or twenty-five or forty again,
your entire life ahead of you.
But the illusion of youth doesn’t last
long, and the ache will return to remind
you that death is coming—so be prepared
to lose what you value most—and live
each day as fully as possible before
the days themselves disappear,
Bruce Black is the editorial director of The Jewish Writing Project. His work has appeared in Soul-Lit, Poetica, Atherton Review, Elephant Journal, Blue Lyra Review, Tiferet Journal, Hevria, Jewthink, The Jewish Literary Journal, Mindbodygreen, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and elsewhere. He lives in Sarasota, FL.