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The beauty and challenges of old age

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Old age

The focus of my reflections of today is on the challenges of old age. However, one cannot speak about the challenges without delving into immeasurable blessings and beauty that trail and still line one’s path in the journey of life. What with a baby grandson of yesterday today grown up and enamoured with Nature running excitedly after squirrels in their tree habitats on the premises. And you say to yourself, what Grace, what a privilege! But today is not a day for reminiscences. These are reserved more for birthdays. The quiet reflections that come with phlegmatic temperament attendant with advanced age, of course, take place from time to time in the closet. When I was availed of the experiences of a British lady at old age, my mind raced to Chief Chris Ogunbanjo’s dictum. Chief Ogunbanjo is wont to say to young men privileged to sit at his feet to learn wisdom: “Oke agba soro gun!” literally meaning climbing the ladder of old age has its challenges. There are rules for the elderly. The steps get slower with the passing year or so. Experts who preoccupy themselves with the phenomenon, for example, admonish the elderly not to rush out of bed. You are to first sit at the edge of the bed for a few seconds to allow oxygen to rush to the brain. Failure to heed the admonition could result in loss of balance with a disastrous fall as the accompaniment. There is loneliness as all the children have left home; they have gone their own way —and the end goes back to the beginning. The couple started out as two, they end up being two left in the house!

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The lady in reference wrote thoughtfully an article on the internet. She is said to be retired. According to the post forwarded to me, she expressed emotion when she was about to go to a nursing home. The article is captioned ‘‘Relocating to Nursing home.’’ The post explains that in Western countries, Old Age Homes Are Called Nursing Homes. The article reads:

“I am going to a nursing home, I have to. When life gets to where you are no longer able to take care of yourself completely, your children are busy at work and have to take care of their children and have no time to take care of you, this seems to be the only way out.

“The nursing home is in good condition, with clean single rooms equipped with simple and practical electrical appliances. All kinds of entertainment facilities are complete, the food is fairly delicious, the service is also very good. The environment is also very beautiful, but the price is not cheap. My pension is poorly able to support this. But I have my own house. If I sell it, then the money is not a problem. I can spend it on retirement, and the rest will be as an inheritance for my son. The son understands very well: ‘Your money and your property should be enjoyed by you, don’t worry about us.’

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“Now I have to consider preparing to go to a nursing home. As the saying goes: Breaking a family is worth tens of thousands, which refers to many things. Boxes, bags, cabinets, and drawers are filled with all kinds of daily necessities: clothing for all weathers and beddings for all seasons. I like to collect. I have collected a lot of stamps. I have also hundreds of purple clay teapots. There are many small collections and such small items as pendants of emerald and walnut amber and two small yellow croakers. I am especially fond of books. The bookshelves on the wall are full. There are also dozens of bottles of good foreign wine. There are sets of household appliances, various cooking utensils, pots and pans, rice, oil, salt, noodles, flour, spices, various seasonings, in fact, the kitchen is also full. There are also dozens and dozens of photo albums…, looking at the house full of things, I’m worried!

“The nursing home has only one room with a cabinet, a table, a bed, a sofa, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a TV, an induction cooker, and a microwave oven—all the things I will rarely need. There is no place to store the wealth that I have accumulated throughout my life. At this moment, I suddenly feel that my so-called wealth is superfluous, and it doesn’t belong to me. I just take a look at it, play with it, use it. It actually belongs to this world. The wealth that comes in turns is just passing by. Whose palace is the Forbidden City? The Emperor thought it belongs to him, but today it belongs to the people and society. You look at these, you play with these, you use these but you can’t take them with you in death. I really want to donate the things in my house, but I can’t get it done. To deal with it has now become a problem. Very few children and grandchildren can appreciate what I have collected. I can imagine what it will be like when my children and grandchildren are faced with these painstakingly accumulated treasures of mine: all the clothes and bedding will be thrown away; dozens of precious photos will be destroyed, books will be sold as scrap.

“Collections? If you are not interested, you will dispose of them. The mahogany furniture is not practical and will be sold at a low price. Just like the end of the Red Manson: only a piece of white left, so clean. Faced with the mountain of clothes, I only kept a set of pots and pans for kitchen supplies, a few books that are worth reading; a handful of teapots for tea. Bring along my ID card, senior citizen certificate, health insurance card, household register, and of course a bank card. Enough. It’s all my belongings! I’m gone. I bid farewell to my neighbours, I knelt down at the door and bowed three times, and gave this home back to the world. Yes! In life, you can only sleep in one room. Any more of it is merely for watching and playing!

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“Having lived a lifetime, people finally understand: We don’t really need much. Don’t be shackled by superfluous things to be happy! It’s ridiculous to compete for fame and fortune. Life is no more than a bed.”

The new recognition of the author about life and existence must have been intended to invite her readers into deep contemplation. There is no doubt that something is astir within her and she has ably shared it with us so we can begin to ask questions: Who am I? The Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece bore the inscription “Know Thyself.” The guiding rule of Socrates was the same: ‘‘Man, Know Thyself.’’ Socrates was reputed to be the wisest man in Greece by the oracle at Delphi. World-wide he was known as a philosopher. And he said: “I must first know myself as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern while I am still in ignorance of my own self would be ridiculous.” The importance attached to such self-knowledge should urge us to reflect and ask questions and more questions. Why am I here on earth? What is the purpose of life and existence? Is the accumulation of treasures compatible with the purpose of life and the striving to fulfill it? It is a man who has reservations about life that seeks. And it is the promise of the Laws of Life which anchor the Holy Will of the Highest that he who seeks must find. Didn’t the Lord Jesus say he who seeks must find; knock and the door shall be opened unto you? Through seeking the Rays of The Light of Truth dawn, penetrating the souls and man finds.

It has been stated in these pages a few times that man is spirit; he carries wrappings of the different planes he carries round him only so he can manifest on the different planes he traversed to reach the earth. For him to anchor on earth he bears the earthly body which makes to be recognised as earthman. When he throws off the physical material body at death he becomes a soul. If a man is a spirit it should follow that the purpose of his sojourn on earth cannot but be spiritual which leads to spiritual maturity, self-consciousness, and perfection which constitute the ticket for admittance into the Spiritual realm more generally known as Paradise.

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How then compatible is the pursuit of possessions compatible with spiritual strivings? The question becomes even more germane in view of the statement by the Lord Christ made to the Rich Young Man (Matthew 19: 16-24 Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible who had asked Him: “Good Master what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” First, the Lord objected to the man referring to Him as good. He said, “there is none good but One, that is, God.” After the Lord told him what to do and he replied that he was doing all that the Lord said unto him: “If thou wilt is perfect, go and sell that thou shalt hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.”As we now know the admonition was target-specific. It was meant for the young ruler only. His wealth was constraining his spiritual striving. In other words, as we now know through incontrovertible higher knowledge, it is erroneous to conclude that every rich man has forfeited the chance of going into Paradise on account of his material endowments even if he makes the right spiritual endeavours. Earthly possessions are gifts from the Almighty. The table is richly laid and each is to approach the table according to his capability. Earthly passions are a necessity to protect what is sacred in man, his spiritual part. For his strivings and endeavours he should not make himself vulnerable by being dependent on the goodwill of any man, group, or institution. It would amount to cheapening that which is high and sublime. The material endowments would also serve man as a shield and instrument to ward off like with like especially in the world of the unscrupulous that have earthly possessions as ready tools. The Lord was often a welcome guest in the homes of the rich and the wealthy. He was not poor contrary to the widespread wrong impression that He was. The wealth He did not need, however, did not make meaning to Him. When the pursuit seizes the soul it would lose the ability to look upwards and soar.

The materials the lady listed were necessary when she needed them. Our so-called inventions were brought from beyond the earthly, from the plane called medium gross matter, and revealed to the Lord’s own in their sleep. They came in the sequence human beings needed them and were mature to receive and use them. We are told the best is yet to come! Possession is different from usage. Where are the typewriters today? Where are telegrams? Who buys money orders today? Queues are shortening in banks with electronic money transfers through POS which litters every nook and corner. An aircraft going from Lagos to Tokyo will require about 14 hours to reach there and will undoubtedly run into turbulence and may refuel. Punching certain numbers will get to the same destination within seconds using phones. It will suffer no turbulence. It travels at the speed or near the speed of light. It is all a product of the technological wonders of our age. The lady therefore need not distress herself about acquisitions she has made. What she leaves behind will take care of themselves. What is important for her as it is for everyone is to be able to answer the question: Where does my path lead me after earthly life? Upwards to the Light or downwards to damnation? It is the all-important question of life and existence.

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