Old Age is Not for Sissies

17 Aug

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and ArtistWhen the movie star, Bette Davis, became elderly, she had a pillow with these words embroidered on it. “Old age is not for sissies.” I admired that platitude and to this day, I try to live by it. Last week we met a woman in a rehab facility who is an example of courage in the face of aging.

In 1919 when World War 1 was ending, Helga was six years old, and it was almost Christmas. The teacher was busy planning a Christmas program so before school one day, Helga took an empty paper sack and smoothed it out so she could create a poem. It is a medium length poem about the birth of Christ. Helga recited every word by heart. She’s also a modern day, on- the-spot poet. Here’s the one she spoke for me.

“There’s a lady in a jacket of pink.

When she used to wash dishes, she stood by the sink.

Her blouse is full of flowers.

I hope the Lord gives you many happy hours.”

After the poem Helga invited us to sing along as she played on a battered harmonica about twelve inches long with key of G holes on one side and key of C holes on the other. She sat in the seat of her walker and told stories of her childhood. She asked us to say the words from John 3:16 with her, which we did, and to sing, “You are My Sunshine,” while she accompanied us. Here’s a bit of her story:

“In 1913, I was born of German parents in a Hoboken cold-water, walk up flat. By the time Americans entered WW 1 in 1917 I was four years old, and I thought Germans were nice. Mama taught us that Jesus wanted us to love people, and that we should never put ourselves above anyone else. I was amazed when I learned during the war that we could be thrown in jail for speaking The Father Tongue. All along American Germans were persecuted as spies. When word came that the war was over, the streets filled with people. We hugged and sang. Folks in wagons and cars drove past waving or honking their horns. One wagon was pulled by a white horse and had a saloon woman sitting on the seat next to the driver. I knew she was from around the corner where we were never allowed to go. In the back of the wagon someone had stuck a dummy, head first, into a toilet bowl and everyone was saying it was the Kaiser.”

1

Hoboken, New Jersey

 

Helga will be 103 in February of 2016. I wanted to ask what she believed had kept her going this long, but I thought I knew the answer. I had once asked another 103 year old woman and her husband, who was 105 what kept them strong. They said it was being a follower of Jesus. I believe it. The joy of the Lord is Helga’s strength, too. That makes Helga no sissie at all.

8 Responses to “Old Age is Not for Sissies”

  1. timelessitaly August 18, 2015 at 12:36 am #

    To be inspired and to inspire as we grow older….I like that! Wonderful post.

    Like

  2. Charles Dougherty August 17, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Great inspirational story. It reminded me of my mother’s line: “What golden years?” She, too, was born in 1913.

    Like

  3. Scott Bury August 17, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    As I get older, I feel ever more acutely how tough you have to be – sometimes, just to stand up.

    Like

  4. Old Things R New August 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    When DiVoran shared some of this on her FB page, I knew it had to be a blog.

    Like

  5. GP Cox August 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    That title is the truest statement I’ve ever heard!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bobnailor August 17, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    What a wonderful story. My mother-in-law will be 103 on 9/6/2015. I think one of the reasons for her longevity is her mindset: Jesus isn’t ready for me, yet. When you talk to her about her age, that is one of the things she will state. She’s always amazed at how old she is getting. She may not be as alert as she once was, but she’s a wonderful person to be around and quite the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dianequicksilvernovels August 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

      Fear will make people do crazy things, like lock up neighbors because they speak German (or Japanese). We’re lucky these people were forgiving and still loved their country. It’s important to hear these stories and appreciate the wisdom that age brings to these special people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Old Things R New August 17, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Bob, she must have wonderful stories to share. Ooops, meant to post this under Bob’s comment.

      Like

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