Aging. . . and appreciation

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For Thanksgiving we had the pleasure of spending the day with my husband Jim’s Aunt and Uncle.  Both in their late 80’s, and married 63 years, they have been in failing health recently.  And, not realizing it yesterday, I woke up this morning knowing I learned a valuable lesson from them.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working in a nursing home.  My goal while I worked there was to help people have a great quality of life.  I always appreciated the residents as people with amazing history.  But, after spending time with our Aunt and Uncle, I realize the residents were only shells of who they once were.  Still functioning, still alive, but not the same.  For the residents in the nursing home we were their caretakers, and they were dependent on us.

So, yesterday, while spending time with them, in our Aunt and Uncle’s home, I realized they were so lucky.  Lucky to have been in such good health for so long, lucky to be together for 63 years.  Lucky to be independent, which is truly a gift. 

And, not that I didn’t see it before, but it became increasingly apparent how finite life is.  In their case, at 87, how many good years are left?  How many more years can they live on their own, cherishing each other and the precious time they have together?

That same question does go for each and every one of us, too — every day is a gift.  Did you ever see the movie, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas“, when his heart melted and he found appreciation?  That is how I feel.  With this Thanksgiving, I found appreciation.  For my family, for my husband, for my children.  I realize how important it is to recognize their individuality.  So, maybe my kids’ grades aren’t perfect, but they are healthy and happy and pursuing their way in life.  They are their own people, truly individuals, sorta fun to be around, and I am proud of them. 

Life is a learning process.  I feel a little sad that it took this long for the “wakeup call”.  And I appreciate my visit with Jim’s aging relatives to help me along.

Do I expect to relish in this appreciation every day?  I’m sure not — I’m sure things will get me down some days, or the work stress will take precious time away.  But I will strive to stop myself if I become overwhelmed, or exhausted, and reflect on the good things in my life. 

My goal?  To smile.  My desire?  Just to have a nice day.  Every day. 

And, my hope for you, too.

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