Some years ago when Sr Margaret O’Sullivan was doing a project on ageing and aged care with a focus on pastoral needs, she invited some people to write about their experience of ageing. She kept the following response as it inspired her at the time. Over the years, Margaret has read it often and now that she is getting near the same age as the writer was, she thought the sharing of it might inspire others, too.
Living through what is commonly called Old Age has not so far been the difficult part of my life’s journey that I imagined it might be. I thought of it as a time of loneliness, of regret for what I might have done in the service of others but didn’t do, of being a trial to myself or worse still to others who perhaps would be tempted to avoid me because of the demands my selfishness would make on them.
I realised I had to face a lessening of my ability to work, to think clearly, to remember people, their names or where I had met them, and I dreaded to think I’d lose my friends.
I am seventy-eight years now and my daily prayer is: Please Lord, make me a gentle, loving, understanding old lady. Let me help wherever my failing health allows me and let me be a support in some small way to my companions.
I feel that Old Age is a wonderful time – a time to look forward to, a time for final preparation to finish the journey with a flourish.
Thinking over my life which I have enjoyed in spite of its ups and downs, I wonder what I can do to make up to people for the many times I have missed seeing the beautiful things about them. My thoughts about people have changed during my process of ageing and I have become aware of their love, their patience and their trials in life.
The loneliness I used to feel when I allowed my thoughts to dwell on deceased loved ones has changed to a looking forward with joy to a glorious reunion. I treasure the spare time I have now to write to friends, to pray, to think and to reflect.
I’m glad I am experiencing this time of Home-coming with reasonable good health and joy in my heart. I realise I speak as one whose days have been lived in pleasant circumstances where care and compassion have been always present on my journey through time and I have experienced the friendship and love of noble persons and now in my ageing years joy comes from the remembrance of them.
As my body grows more tired, my mind less retentive and my aches multiply, I hope still to be able to thank God for the joy of many friends.
The writer was Mother Mary Cletus Doyle rsj (1904-1989)