“As you are now, I once was. As I am no, so shall you be.”
Old Chinese Proverb
* * *
When I was a young girl, maybe 12 or 13, I visited a nursing home as part of a youth group.
I remember studying the face of the woman who lived in the suffocatingly tiny room we were standing in — made even more so by the cluster of pubescent kids awkwardly standing around not knowing what to do, where to look or what to say.
Wrinkled with time, weathered with worry, spotted with age. Her watery blue eyes so very tired. I remember thinking that even her white hair seemed tired. I took note of her tissue paper hands resting in her lap – translucent and fragile.
Having accumulated very little wisdom at that point in my life, I couldn’t see the beauty in such a face or such hands. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever look like that. I couldn’t imagine that she ever looked like me. But there she was in a faded black and white photograph, a smiling young woman holding a baby, all of life ahead of her.
My 46th year of life is half over now. On my vanity rests a photo of me holding Sean, smiling as though all of life is ahead of me. It is not. I notice in the mirror this morning that I’ve accumulated a few new wrinkles this year and the beginnings of an age spot here and there. Sometimes I look tired even when I’m not. Sleep no longer holds the same restorative powers it did when I was 20. I realize it is ironic that it’s only now, all these year later, in my own reflection, that I see the beauty of the woman in the nursing home.
I wish I could go back and tell the white-haired woman in the nursing home that I’ve since learned that beauty has more to do with the living of life than with youth. But today, thirty years later, she surely rests her tired eyes and weary bones in the cool of the earth.
And as she is now, so shall I be. So shall I be.