I was in either the seventh or eighth grade when a tragedy rocked the small seminary my dad attended. A student’s wife died leaving him to care for the small children. I can remember going to the service and listening to a huge choir sing “It Is Well With My Soul”. I remember the last verse resounding in triumph.
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back like a scroll:
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”–it is well with my soul.
As that verse rang through the large auditorium, I realized how wonderful it was to know that one day death would be vanquished.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog about growing old gracefully and whether or not to dye grey hair. The weeks that followed caused me to rethink my thoughts. It started with something simple, face cream. Most mornings I wash my face with a salt body scrub and then moisturize with cream. One morning shortly after I wrote the grey hair blog, I looked at the cap of my moisturizer. “Never Grow Up Face Cream”. Hm, I thought, what am I doing? Did taking care of my face counterdict what I had said about growing old and accepting who I was? I decided that I was taking care of the skin I had been given. I wasn’t lying about my age or trying to not look old. However, I still mulled the concept over in my mind every morning as I applied the cream.
Then I went to a wedding. I really didn’t know the bride and groom. I more so knew of them. I was friends with the bride’s mom. My fourteen-year-old son was friends with both the bride and groom and their younger siblings. He asked me to take him to the wedding. I’ll say it was a fun day. The family walked in to the theme from the Shire, while the wedding party entered to a song from Phantom of the Opera, and the processional was The Throne Room/End Song from Star Wars New Hope! The youngest brother of the groom entered as ring bearer with a pillow in the shape of an X-Wing fighter. A beautiful ceremony ended with walking through a reception line and mingling at the reception.
My introvert self came to the forefront as I looked around and couldn’t find anyone I really knew. I sat in a corner, ate my cupcake with an X-Wing chocolate piece on it, and drank my punch while my son roamed with his friends. Later, I saw the sister of the groom come through with what looked like white frosting on her hands. I wondered if my son was in the middle of it. Sure enough, when I wandered outside and saw the getaway car, I discovered it wasn’t frosting but shaving cream, and yes my son had gotten into the middle of the fight. As the bride and groom left instead of running a gauntlet of birdseed or bubbles, they provided squirt guns to the guests. An impromptu water fight broke out even before the bride and groom left and continued for up to fifteen minutes afterward.
As we left, I began to think of how odd it was. My youngest son had just had his first wedding as a friend of the bride and groom. Sure, he’d gone to the weddings of our pastor’s daughter and other church members, but this was the first one where he got to be behind the scenes. I realized that he was growing up and I will one day send him on his way into the world. It was a bit of a shock. Not the thought of him leaving, but how life changes. I struggled with the thought of what it means to gracefully grow old.
Last week, I attended a viewing for a man who was there for me in my late high school and early college years. His kids were my sister’s and my best friends during those years. I watched his kids and grandkids cope. (I wrote about the heartwrenching experience in last week’s blog.) As we left, my mom said, “We are saying good by to an era.” She was right. I walked to my car and cried. Earlier this summer, I said good-bye to some of my childhood memories when my uncle passed away. Now, I was sending away my high school and college memories.
Wednesday night my husband borrowed my parents’ vehicle. As I pulled out of the driveway, I said good-bye to Dad. I then proceeded to bawl all the way home. The thought of saying a longer farewell pricked my heart. I was not ready for that.
During worship time at church, we sang “It Is Well With My Soul”. I realized this is the key to the whole growing old issue. It is the question of contentment. Am I willing to say it is well?
When peace, like a river, attendeth my soul,
When sorrows like sea billows roll–
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, It is well
With my soul.
Can I be content where I am? If I can’t then I won’t grow old gracefully. If I can, then, like we told our daughter as she grew up, I can be beautiful both inside and out.