In the course of a life, there are soul encounters so quietly profound they defy denial. I stand in awe of the amazing women who presently people my life.
I spent yesterday afternoon in a lovely garden overrun by spring flowers and a magnificent waterfall celebrating the 80th birthday of my friend Delores. Even now the experience of those three hours defy words. Something transpired there, sitting with 30 or so iconic women from all walks of life who had gathered to collectively celebrate our friend Delores.
If there were ever a need to prove the nonexistence of age, I bore witness to it yesterday. Delores is literally and absolutely ageless. The life emanating from her eyes, her skin, her pores, her irreverent laughter all affirm what I have always known- there is no such thing as age. The human spirit- when cultivated in joy -feeds on more joy until it explodes like a nova, radiant in the firmament. My friend is one of those luminescent heavenly bodies; bright and clear and singularly beautiful. She lights up the dark sky, twinkling with laughter, beaming with love, a beacon to light our way. The newly acquired butterfly tattoo on her shoulder with a tiny “80” attached marks the beginning of her eighth decade.
I just turned 56; two weeks ago quietly celebrating after the fact with a few close friends over blue corn pancakes on Venice beach. Well into my fifth decade, I am now acutely aware of the subtle and not so subtle signs of middle aging. The reading glasses I can’t find even as I am wearing them, I need to be spanked on a regular basis(that’s right)…. joints and spine just aren’t as flexible -especially in the first 6 minutes after waking. I am now engaged in “financial planning” for retirement and long term senior care so I don’t burden my daughter. I am consciously cleaning house and setting “my business” in order because, lets face it, tomorrow is promised to no one. These are not the concerns of youth. I am clearly in my middle years and I have no illusions about that. Here now is a deeper dawning truth. If I am indeed to grow old and this process seems undeniable and inevitable as the numbers tumble one into the other, I will blink and 60 will be here. On its heels will be 70 and 80 and 90 and 100 and somewhere in there, I will have grown “old.”
Old. As my face becomes more deeply lined and my steps a bit more careful, the eternal me inside of me will never know it’s old because it won’t be. I looked into the face of 80 yesterday. I was invited into the heart of 80 by Mozart and champagne in the shade of an ancient oak. The light and grace and beauty of 80 reflected back to me all that I am, foretelling the sweetness of life yet awaiting me. It was like a spring rain and night blooming jasmine and chocolate cake and good sex, a warm comfort to tears and the sweet answer to prayers. Delores is, at 80, a resounding YES to the universe, “I am here!”. Her spirit screams ” I am alive! I choose life!”. Delores gives me life.
I’m going to Trinidad again on Monday. Even though I just returned, I am going home again to help transition my Aunt Pat into a nursing home. At 85, she is just a few years older than my friend Delores yet ,in contrast, my Aunt Pat has chosen to extract her teeth, close the curtains blocking out the light, refuse to leave her room and now her bed in a self imposed rageful death sentence which poisons the very air that she breathes. She shouts and raves and picks at herself like a gorgon eating it’s own tail. There’s easy dying and there’s hard dying and Aunt Pat has chosen the latter. I will return to the place of my birth, the home that has long since ceased to house any part of me ,to remove my once favorite aunt from her tomb/room to a care facility where she will hopefully be monitored and cared for by kind nursing professionals.
Two women in their 80’s. One has chosen life, the other death. And here it is….the choice. Clearly laid out before me in the month of my birth. The awareness of choice is the greatest gift to me as I mark the hours and days and times of my sojourn here. How grateful I am for Delores and for my Aunt Pat. They are both Buddha gifts to me bringing into absolute clarity and focus the existence of choice. And oh my God……. I choose life. I choose it like water after a marathon, drinking it down, pouring it on, filling myself up in gratitude, in joy and purpose and laughter. I choose children and puppies and chocolate and great sex. I choose deep laughter til my sides hurt and tears that mark the depth of my loving. I choose life and the sea and chimes on the wind and rain on hot galvanized roofs. I choose passion and grace and the effortless pursuit of Loveliness everywhere – all the time, every single day of this blessed life.
Thank you Delores.
Thank you for showing me what 80 looks like. It is glorious!
You give me life.