Sarah enrolled in hospice at age 85 with terminal cancer and was bedfast when we first met. She was a genteel type lady, refined, elegant and graceful, but her husband Victor was a short, stout rough-hewn Polish immigrant, who, on the flip-side, was very tender and attentive towards his wife. They were both highly intelligent and professionally accomplished, and had retired from a nearby nuclear energy facility. Sarah and Victor had no children but they had each other.
As I sat beside Sarah’s hospital bed I spotted a small spinet type electric piano against a wall near a window. It looked like an inexpensive beginner’s model. A collection of E-Z Play songbooks lined the ledge above the keyboard and a cardboard note guide straddled the keys. So I asked, “Who plays the piano?” and Sarah replied, “I started playing about two years ago. I always wanted to play the piano so I bought some E-Z Play songbooks and taught myself how to play. I did it just for us, not for anybody else. And Victor and I have had some marvelous times singing together. We’ve really enjoyed it.” Victor shook his head in affirmation as they smiled at one another.
Sarah and Victor remind me of my departed friend Ed, who was 90-years old when we met. Ed was the primary caregiver for Gladys, his deceased friend’s wife. Ed still did taxes for a limited number of clients;, he cared for his 65- year old developmentally disabled daughter, and he took her for an hour long drive in his little blue Ford Escort every night. Ed declared, “Barbie just loves to take rides.” Ed shared, “People are always telling me, ‘you’re too old to do that pops’ but I just keep it between the lines and I tell them, ‘I don’t count my birthdays I count my blessings. I still have a job to do.’ I think people get old before their time, because they get old in their minds.”
I’ve observed that there are defining moments in our lives, which are usually determined by defining statements from without and within. When God told Abraham that his 90- year old wife, Sara, was going to bear him a son, Abraham, “…fell on his face and laughed and said in his heart, ‘shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? “ (Genesis 17:17). The phrase, “and he said in his heart”, is repeated several times in the scriptures.
You know, we have to be careful what we “say in our heart”, because our self talk can become a defining statement and a defining moment. Wise old King Solomon understood this aspect of our human nature, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
What if Sarah would have said in her heart, “I’m 83 years old. I’m too old to learn how to play the piano. It’s too late to start something new. I don’t have that much time left.” What if Ed would have listened to those voices from without? Sarah and Ed would have become “old before their time.”
So I ask you, “Is there something new you want to start? Is there something you’ve started that you’d like to finish? Then I encourage you to do it while you can. “Don’t let it be etched on your tombstone, “died age 40, buried age 70.”
If Sara and Victor’s story inspires you to start something new or finish something you’ve started, I would love to hear about it. You can contact me at the email or phone number below.
Loren Hardin is a social worker for Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525.