Staying in Focus: What Matters When You’re Ninety

IMG_0787Today we are celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday with an afternoon barbecue in Sanford at my sister’s house.  She has been through a lot the past month or so, barely surviving two failed chemo attempts which left her weak, sick and miserable. Both she and her doctor have agreed to suspend treatment.  He will give her a month or so to recover, and hopefully put on a few pounds before starting monthly shots to suppress the tumor in her lung.  She has chosen quality of life at this point, as many days as she can enjoy without being sick so much of the time.

As I prepare for her birthday, I ask myself, what matters most when you’re ninety? For my Mom, no question about it, it is her family and friends. There comes a time in our life when material goods no longer matter. It’s all just stuff in the end, stuff you leave behind, unless you are planning  a King Tut kind of send-off. complete with a tomb filled with your stuff arrayed around you for thousands of years. But it is still just stuff.It doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

Time spent with family and friends is worth much more than stuff, and it becomes  more precious, more of a priority, as we grow older. Our lives are short and as we age, we become more aware that at some point we will simply run out of time. That is why we need to make  a special effort to spend this time wisely, getting together and sharing laughter and memories, celebrations and milestones, playing with the young ones and listening to the stories our elders tell of their lives and all they have seen or done during them. My mother has experienced so much in her ninety years, and has accumulated a great deal of wisdom along the way.

So with that in mind, I created a time line of her life so far (see post 5/02//2013). Then I had the idea to make a collage of all her children, from my brother John to her latest great, great-grandchild. I placed her picture in the middle of the collage, cutting it in  a heart shape, as  she is the heart of our family. As I worked , the words of the governor in the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, came to mind, so I added this quote at the bottom:

We are your symphony. We are the melodies and notes in your opus. We are the music of your life.

Family has always come first with Mom. The warm, loving home she created for us, the support and encouragement she has always given us, her pride in our accomplishments, these gifts she has freely given and the children she has nurtured, are her opus. They are a legacy far more worthwhile than an accumulation of stuff. Perhaps we should all realize this sooner rather than later and make the most of the time we have, just being together.

So today, my mother’s family and friends will gather round her to celebrate 90 years of  a life well lived.She’ll glow in the warmth of their love and delight in their laughter. The sounds of their voices will surround her like a symphony, and the music will fill her heart with joy for this is what she lives for. This is what matters when you’re ninety. It’s what  matters most of all.IMG_0789_1IMG_0792_1

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