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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Age Versus the Human Spirit

The warrior on her walker

It’s been a tough holiday season so far for our 90-year-old mother, who has gone through a string of age-related medical issues over the past few weeks.

Mom spent Thanksgiving week in the hospital, which is about the most depressing place you can be on a holiday. After that, it was off to the rehab center, where she’s been working with the therapists to rebuild some of her strength and mobility in the hopes that she will be able to return to the senior living community where she’s been residing for the past year and a half.

Given all she’s been through over the past couple years, I wasn’t feeling optimistic that she would bounce back from this latest blow. Along with her increasing physical frailty, Mom’s memory is failing and she’s often confused as to where she is and what’s going on around her. It’s hard to convince a 90-year-old person with a body that doesn’t work well anymore to do physical therapy, or even understand why it’s important.

But to my amazement and that of my siblings, our mother, once again, has bounced back. Over the past few days, she has gotten some of her pep back and is starting to use her walker again, albeit moving very slowly. We have our fingers crossed that we can get her out of rehab soon and back to the senior living community for Christmas.

I never fail to be amazed by the resilience of the human spirit. There’s a fierce warrior within each of us that refuses to give up when the odds are stacked against it. Call it the will to live, call it the drive for self-preservation, call it whatever you want, but it’s that soldier inside us that’s determined to keep going on when the war appears lost.

Because there is a war going on. As much as I talk in this blog about the things that bring us peace—faith, gratitude, acceptance, self-understanding, and the like—there’s no discounting the things in this life that seek to bring us down and destroy our peace.

As long as we are alive, we are at war. It’s a war against aging, against disease and decay, against the natural tendency of things to fall apart. It’s a war that, ultimately, we will lose. But still we go on.

Why? Because we know at a certain level that life is a precious orange that’s worth wringing every drop of juice from. There are so many things to do, to enjoy, to give and receive. There are people who depend on us for our wisdom and assistance.

Sometimes our inner warrior just needs to be reminded of the things worth living for when the clouds of pessimism roll in. Then back off it will go into battle for us.

As a big Lord of the Rings fan, I’m reminded of Aragorn’s rally speech to the troops as they prepare to battle the forces of Mordor at the Black Gate. The day may come, Aragorn tells them, when their courage may fail, but it is not this day. This day, they will fight and overcome.

Whether that is what’s happening with our mother, I don’t know. She’s not able to articulate what’s happening within her as she was in the past. Knowing her, though, I sense that she feels her job here on earth is not done, that her family still needs her in some vital way.

So despite the pain in her knees and the weakness in her legs and ankles, she works her way up from bed, takes the handles of that walker, and puts one foot in front of the other.

We know this will not go on forever. There will come a time when age wears her down to the point where she won’t want to do it anymore. When that time comes, the Serenity Prayer will be our guide—

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

In the meantime, the warrior is out on that walker, a living example for all of us.

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