by Jacki Corrigan
I began my work with the aging when I was five years old.
We had moved into a new/old house in a neighborhood with few children, but a rich sprinkling of older widows.
Living next door to us were two sisters, Mimi and Aunt Babe. Their home was adorned with an inviting front porch, which housed three wicker rocking chairs. It was a porch where I spent delightful days rocking and talking with the best friends of my childhood.
It was there that I first tasted storebought cookies. At the time, I thought they were such delicious cookies compared to my mother’s home-baked Danish cookies.
When I turned 16, Mimi and Aunt Babe were my first passengers in the family car, as I drove them to 6 a.m. Mass on Christmas morning. They were two of the people who helped form me in the Catholic faith.
Also, I worked with the aging through the archdiocesan family life office and was enriched once again by the spirit and faith of my elders.
There was one gathering where I handed out a sheet of various quotes on aging to those attending. As an icebreaker, I had asked if anyone would like to share which quote had the most meaning for them. After a few sharings, a man spoke up and said: “I like the quote that says, ‘The birds sing louder as we get older.’” He then responded, “Of course, they have to sing louder, or we wouldn’t be able to hear them.” My heart chuckled at his positive response.
Another lesson that I learned on aging came from a conference given by Dr. Richard P. Johnson, author of “Ageless in the Lord.” He asked, “What do you think of when you think of the elderly?” There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation before I could see in my mind’s eye the bus from the assisted living community that brings the many men and women to Mass on Saturday evening.
Then, he said, “What do you think of when you think of an elder?” Within an instant, my mind went to someone who had faced life’s struggles and joys, and, sometimes, tragedies; someone who had gained and worked for the wisdom they now held within them, and often shared with others.
I have been abundantly blessed by the many elders in my life and their lessons that have enriched and fortified my understanding of aging.
“Our later years can usher in a noticeable intensification of the call of God, a greater clarity in listening to God, and a heightening of our trust in God’s work in our heart.” — Dr. Richard P. Johnson