I learned the art of aging gracefully from my husband. One of his favorite hobbies was gardening. He loved being outdoors, mowing the lawn, weeding, planting multiple gardens and maintaining them, building and maintaining a backyard pond and so much more. He loved to build with wood. He didn’t need plans. His ideas transformed into beautiful creations. He made toy boxes for the grandchildren, hobby horses, bridges for the pond, a backyard swing and arbor (with grapevines and clematis) and so much more. He transformed rooms inside the house, built-in bookshelves, and even a fireplace complete with mantle. A neighbor wanted a bookshelf for her young daughter that looked like a house and asked him if he would build it. He did. The last thing his hands created was a wishing well for the prayer garden at the church we attended.
In 2010, his battle with illness began. His creativity was stifled with the need for oxygen therapy 24×7. He was, as he put it, tethered to a hose like a bull with a ring in his nose. His sense of humor never left him, though he could no longer do the things he loved. He was gracious when I took over mowing even though my efforts were not up to his standards. He watched as my son-in-law with a little help from me, put down over 60 bags of mulch in the multiple gardens. He watched as the largest part of the pond was demolished and filled in because he could no longer maintain it. And he never complained. He enjoyed family and displayed a sense of humor throughout his struggle.
He spent hours giving himself breathing treatments while reading the Bible. His activity level diminished and he lived the truth of accepting severe limitations. And Just a few weeks before God called him home, he sat in a lawn chair with his oxygen, a hat, and a pair of shears as he pruned the lilac tree.
I believe the years of being his caregiver taught me how to age gracefully. I only wish he was still with me so we could age gracefully together.