I’ve been reading a collection of gems by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mary Schmich titled even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now. The title is a reference to Schmich’s mother, who towards the end of her life commented to her daughter, “You have to be old to appreciate the beauty of your life. Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now.”
I have been thinking a lot lately about old age and mortality. Last week I mourned the loss of a friend who was born the same year I was. Just the other evening, I visited my 87-year-old mother, whose heart and mind are strong, but whose body has become frail and uncooperative. Even my own aging body has started to betray me in small ways. I’ve developed osteoporosis and chronic back pain. A stubbed toe has become a minor handicap. I watch TV with closed captioning because my hearing is not what it used to be.
We are all headed down this path toward our eventual earthly demise. We can’t imagine that the world will continue to turn when we are no longer alive in it. But of course it will. In another essay, Schmich again quotes her mother: “I keep wondering what I’m going to do with the time I have left.”
Ah, that is the question, isn’t it? Schmich posits that the answer to that question keeps changing over the course of our lives. I remember having some grandiose goals when I was in my 20s. I would ride a bike through Europe and learn to sail and write the Great American Novel. Only one of those dreams is still alive. I guess I had better get to it while I am still alive.
Yes, there have been terrible times in my life. I have experienced loss and fear and sleepless nights, physical and emotional pain, dread, anxiety. It can be a healing thing to reflect that all the terrible things have a certain beauty when seen in the context of a long life.
Thank you, Mary Schmich, for helping me meditate on the great and mysterious journey we call life.