Reading about elders this morning. I turned 73 in September and if there is a time when someone is to be considered an Elder, I think I have arrived. But I am not here alone. I look around at those I love who are in this same age bracket and I see a bunch of Elders.
Elders, says Thomas Moore in his article “7 Steps to Becoming an Elder” in Spirituality & Health magazine, grow into their role, mostly without much consciousness. Most probably don’t even know who they are. He gave the example of his own father who, in his later years, enjoyed teaching young people about plumbing and water treatment. Moore said he never used the word Elder and didn’t think about what he was doing except passing on knowledge to kids. This passing on of knowledge concerning the technology of water treatment Moore calls “direct learning”. He said that there is also “indirect learning”. He said his father was also showing young children that an old man can find joy in his life’s work.
I was thinking about my brother Chuck this morning who is dealing with pancreatic cancer. He’s had some victories over the last two years, but there has been a steady loss as well. Loss of energy and loss of capacity to do the things he once loved. His world is getting smaller and smaller as he is tied to his treatment plan and as he faces one problem after another, problems that are often caused by the treatments rather than the disease.
But his wife tells me that Chuck still tries to show up to his grandsons sporting events. He likes to get out and eat at favorite restaurants whenever he can muster the energy. He still wants to see old friends. She said, “He doesn’t have much energy to talk but he likes being with them.” I am so inspired by this man. I am not yet in his shoes, but if I know that if I have to face a disease such as cancer, I will walk differently through it because of him.
My brother has been known to speak wise words when we were together. His political opinions are well thought out, grounded in his own life experience as a union man and as a man who has payed attention to events that are now history. He payed attention, he learned and he is passing on what he learned to the younger generation. This is what Elders do. They teach with their words and with their actions.
We are close in age. Chuck is my older brother by 4 years. I may be an Elder myself, but I will never stop needing Elders in my life to guide me. It is a matter of grace that one Elder happens to be my brother.