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IMG_0823He used to be so strong. When the clan gathered, he was at the center of the family photo. His smile was broad enough to claim six children, six in-laws, a passel of grandkids, and a growing number of great grand children.

Now, life was catching up with him. Age was held at bay for decades. Once he was resilient for the crazy, noisy family reunions.

The world races by outside. It is oblivious to the inevitable march dominating the building that was home for an ever-expanding brood. 93 years have passed under his bridge.

Lines on his smile carried stories that filled those years. Busy activity around him showed the care of his children who handled business, studied medical options, listened to his waning memories of stories from years ago and far off places around the world. Sadness crept in for us all.

The light of life was growing dimmer. Energy from his perpetual youth was slipping away. Once a proud man, now we would help him to do the very basics of life, ignoring the cry for personal dignity.

With humility needed for the many of life necessities his head dipped and the functions were performed without fanfare. Old is a merciless shadow that drains even the strongest from the pedestal of zest. Aging bodies cannot do what it was designed by the great Creator to do.

Now, younger lives, children return the favor of a parent. The child is now the one who gives what once was lavishly given. Life roles have now changed.

Processing the dramatic reversal of energy, independence, and animation made sense in my mind. Sensing it and reacting to it was very different. Getting old is not kind.

Aging is brutal. Life should not be so painful, agonizing, and difficult. Inconsolably sad was how I was feeling.

Reaching out my hand and lifting a once proud man up from his cushioned chair just to make a move to the dining room table required a conscientious effort. The loss of mobility rang a hollow call from the emptying spirit of the head of this home. The sadness grabbed me deeper in my soul.

May God’s mercy sustain all who feel the constant creep of aging stealing so much from their lives. Keep looking up, dear ones. The God of the Ages is watching over you and promises to give back so much for all eternity for those who know his son, Jesus the Christ.

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IMG_5318Word of my friend Michael’s passing still makes me shake.  It was a total shock and surprise.  Someone so special in my life now gone.

For some reason I thought that I could reflect on that life-change for at least a little while.  Yet, life as meted out by the Great Administrator does not always coincide with human assumptions.  Instead, more friends are spending massive amounts of time in the examination room as doctors poke and prod.

An email alert came from Becky.  One of my buddies, her husband, and I have shared many moments in the woods open to whatever the wonderful world of the wilds had in store for us.  Hiking, gazing and exploring were filled with conversation and laughing.

Richard was in and out of the hospital.  Doctors could not figure out what was not right.  Yet, Richard knew something was off kilter.

We play tag on email as he keeps me up-to-date with the latest medical guess.  He is in pain.  Something is wrong and we are praying that the wonderful world of medicine can figure it out.

Then, another email flashed across my screen.  Frank was in the hospital.  I picked up my phone and gave the hospital a call.

Frank laughed, “Yep, I am in the hospital.  I had a few strokes last year and led to a visit to the doctor.
“THREE strokes? Doctor? Like are you for real?”
“Yeah, now the doctors tell me I need a quadruple bypass.”
“Good grief! Dude, you sure know how to surprise your friends.”
“Ha. I told Cindy to trade me in for an upgraded model.  She told me she was happy with what she has.  Cool, eh?”

The telephone visit was brief but encouraging all the way around.  Friendship among guys is like that.  There was no denial, no worries, no whining.

Another email alert raced across my screen.  This time it was Duane.  He was in the hospital.

I picked up the phone and called him.  He just got to the hospital that very morning.  His internist had been treating him for pneumonia but the treatment was not making Duane feel any better.

When the antibiotic schedule was done, Duane went in to see his doctor.  The stethoscope told a very different story.  Immediately, the doctor admitted Duane into the hospital.

Duane needed a new heart valve.  Yikes! My friends are hurting.  I am praying for them, texting them and hoping that next week all will be better, much better.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_2047It has been months since I was able to move into the swimming pool without discomfort.  Getting old is no fun.  Doing it gracefully is a daily challenge.

Gingerly I held on to the hand rail and descended into the warm waters of our club lap pool.  Of course in my mind I was bound and determined to look “cool” while doing it.  I stubbornly refused to surrender to any image of “old man coming in!”

Yet, I could only cover so much.  Turning my head too much wrenched my back.  Twisting my hips too much nearly paralyzed me with pain.

OK, I’ll admit it!  I am turning into an OLDer man.  It is worth fighting to remain young in mind and give the appearance of youthful-like mobility and foster the illusion as long as possible.  Age is mostly a mental state, right?  I do not think that last composition of words came out right.

Water buoyancy is a friend to our aching bodies.  God gave us water to show us how gravity can be modulated for a brief moment.  Lifting the weight momentarily relieves the pain.

Deftly I set myself for my first voyage since the diagnosis of four herniated disks.  “Slowly” was my operative term.  Pushing off the wall gently, my gliding moves propelled me through the water.

Just like riding a bike, you never forget how to swim.  The strokes were pain free.  While it was tempting to push my rhythm, experience and terror kept the cadence deliberate and intentionally relaxed.

Lap after lap my mind was beginning to sense progress.  Treatment for my pain-riddled body had brought me back to functionality.  Now, I could fill my lungs with air, grow back some stamina and feel invigorated again.

Still I would go easy.  After several more trips to the pool I would still move deliberately and slowly.  Each time I added more laps.  Finally, I upped my time in the waters of recuperation and knocked off 48 laps.

I did that much just because getting out of the pool is so hard.  After a good swim I use the hand rail to pull me out of the waters and feel the stinging reminder of a back that can no longer to do spinning Karate kicks or double front Kung Fu snap kicks or oblique wrestling leg sweeps.

In my early youthful days I promised myself that I would not whine about aches and pains when I inevitably grew older.  So, the sounds of shrieking that you might be hearing are simply the exhaling of breath practicing a newly discovered soprano vocal range.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1902Our stroll through the Texas Hill Country promised endless fields of Blue Bells.  Vibrant flashes of Indian Paintbrush was the expected highlight of our first foray into this magical region of our newly adopted state.  All of us Flatlanders were looking forward to the newly welcomed undulations of changing elevations.

Promises were underdelivered.  I could see the beginnings of the Blue Bells.  However, it would be a day in the future when their color exploded on the landscape.

The Paintbrush was not yet developed either.  On this beautiful weekend, the sun shone on green fields like a canvas ready for the Creator to display His remarkable display.  Maybe I can make a return trip soon.

This trip was not a total loss.  Sporadically, a cactus was offering the only show in town.  New growth and an eruption of color made my camera feel like snapping.  Proportions and shapes were amazing.

Admittedly, I did laugh.  The new growth from the cactus almost looked like someone had glued brussel sprouts on the pans.  In an odd sort of way,it seemed right for the plant to have such peculiar appendages.

Colors beside green were very subdued.  Nevertheless, the shades of green were reminders that this was the dominant color of a plant what was a factory for oxygen.  We can be grateful for this special cycle of life.

IMG_1901Old growth from this aged plant were lower to the ground.  The color was deeper.  Wounds from some kind of damage had scabbed over.  Time had made this ancient life find a territory and it would continue here for time beyond the onlooking humans.

Someone might wrongly assume that this plant was tired in its age.  The prolific new growth would dispel that assumption.  Rather, all of us slow moving silver-haired humans would instead smile.  Hope would gather slowly in our veins and we would breath deeply.  We have an inspiration from the high dessert of Texas.

Thank you, Mr. Cactus.  You gave us all a reason to keep popping our sprouts and presenting our newness with each new season.  Keep our tired old scars down on the lowside.  Let us instead, stand up tall and show off the freshness in our lives for every new day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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