Ever since the prayer I had written specially for our senior citizens group made its debut this year as the official prayer of our monthly meetings, I have gotten a number of requests for copies. I’ve decided to share it here for Advent.
I’ve realized that expressions of gratitude and petitions encompass a set of spiritual concerns of seniors, to which we did not give much attention in our younger days.
The first verse expresses gratitude for our “golden” years—60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. So many people never reach these ages to enjoy their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, watch them grow up, develop their potentials, and pursue their own dreams in life. It gives a family’s patriarch and matriarch incomparable fulfillment and joy to be around to still see all this happen, before they finally leave this life.
I’m having this experience today as I vicariously participate in the challenges, struggles, setbacks and small initial successes that my own grandchildren experience in their personal lives, academic journeys and early career ventures.
One of them, who had a serious health scare just as he started his career here, is now in New Zealand preparing for a new career, hoping to be reunited eventually with the young family he has left behind.
He is only one of several grandchildren embarking on their respective pursuits. I am very grateful to God for allowing me to still be around, and together with their parents, do my bit in helping them along as they enter this uncharted stage in their lives. Even just for this, every senior should be grateful for the gift of a long life.
Being able to focus on the needs of others, instead of our self-centered pursuits, is another blessing and opportunity of the senior years. True, there are times we cannot help asking more from our children as we grow older—in terms of their time, attention and even resources, especially for those of us who are not financially independent. But at the same time, we have so much opportunity to look outward, to see so many needs we can fill and so much suffering we can alleviate in our own immediate environment.
I know many seniors who go out regularly to comfort the sick in hospitals, visit convicts in prison, teach livelihood skills in depressed communities, and provide counseling to the troubled and to young people who need guidance. The list is practically endless, and seniors, with their vast experience in life and much time in their hands, have the best opportunity to fill the great void of unmet needs of the less fortunate.
As we get older, we realize that we don’t need many of the things we have unconsciously “hoarded” through many years. Some of my friends have started giving away, or have put up garage sales, to get rid of the assortment of unused items cluttering their homes. In fact, some have even “downsized,” moving to smaller houses or condo units.
Some have been generously welcomed by their children into their homes, so that they can better look after their aging parents. I even know some lucky parents whose children have competed to have them live in their respective homes. The usual compromise is for these children to “share” their precious parents, having them for parts of the year.
Aging and increasing health issues go together. We have to accept the inevitable. Gone are the days when we could live with abandon without regard for the consequences to our health.
Today we almost immediately pay the price for every little abuse—from the indigestion that comes from eating too much of a good thing to the stiff, aching joints that accompany too much exercise, or the lack of it. Worse are the chronic, incapacitating and progressive illnesses for which we have to take “maintenance” drugs endlessly.
A spirit of “unresentful acceptance” and “courageous perseverance” in coping with these health challenges is what we need to see us through with grace.
And when this earthly life is finally over, our very nature compels us to look forward to being reunited with the One who created us in the first place. This is how the prayer ends. Here it is in full:
A Senior’s Prayer
Lord, fill me with gratitude for the grace of a journey
that has brought me safely to life’s golden years.
Let me greet each new day as a priceless gift
to be lived fully doing Your will.
Let me continue to do what good I can for my fellowmen,
so that I may be a blessing and not a burden to others.
Let me be generous in sharing with others the lessons,
knowledge and wisdom I have gained through the years.
Let me live in simplicity, knowing that it is the things of the spirit,
not earthly goods, that ultimately have real value.
Let me cope with the physical challenges and infirmities,
which come inevitably in life’s later years,
in a spirit of unresentful acceptance and courageous perseverance.
And when I finally close my eyes in the fading sunset of this earthly life,
let me awaken to the unending sunrise of eternal life in Your loving embrace.