Though leaves are many, the root is one
Through all the lying days of my youth I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun
Now I may wither into the truth.W.B. Yeats
Wisdom is attributed to the old for good reason. Our life experiences are numerous and our perspective deepens despite our weakened physical appearance. We “wither into the truth.”
Though we age, we are often called upon to continue physically caring for others. We must seek a balance in order to remain strong for those we love. Self-sacrifice that is all-draining renders us exhausted and unable to help anyone.
We are reminded of Jesus’ example but must remember that he did take time to sleep. I imagine that he ate healthy food and cared for his health, enabling him to care better for others. When the time was right and not too soon, he gave all. Most of us will not be in the position of sacrificing our lives, but we are all called to self-donation, to giving, and to some form of self-sacrifice.
Life is a juggle of self-care without self-centeredness, of self-sacrifice without self-destruction. It is at times difficult and even counterintuitive.
And then loss occurs. Tragedies visit more often or earlier in life for some: loss of health, of a partner, of a loved one, of abilities, of home, of youth…
I search for a better concept of loss. If inevitable, how does one best deal with it? I truly think it is with gratitude and acceptance. Pleasurable life experiences are easy to accept and be grateful for, but I am striving to be thankful even for premature losses and for tragedies. Certainly not that they occurred and hurt myself and others, but that life continued and God was there to comfort us with loved ones, with future life experiences, with a “peace that passes all understanding.”
It does seem counterintuitive. I have lost a dear husband early in life. It was tragic. Many people still feel the effects of the loss of him though over 20 years have passed. And yet, had he not died, Bruce and I would not have found each other, and our six children and four grandchildren would not have been born. I stagger in the profundity of emotional pain and of God’s grace.
I search to find meaning in physical pain, so hard to bear, so hard to witness. I do not believe that it is in vain. I ponder why some suffer so greatly, and feel that there is truth in the belief that their prayers and influence are profoundly powerful.
We are called to be generative in old age and thus if we are physically feeble, perhaps this is accomplished in our words, or modeling peace, or praying, or just loving. If cared for by others we become the means for their gain in grace.
“Now I may wither into the truth.”
Yeats contemplates the beguilement of his youth, and reveals to us that as we wither physically and surrender control, we have the greatest opportunity to gain in wisdom, influence and love.