Over the last few years, my husband Steven and I have become somewhat ‘riddled’ with health problems of a chronic and acute nature, which we can find very debilitating. While the realities of older age (which often ‘creep’ up like a gallop) are often not highlighted enough, personally we have learned much through the trials and difficulties.
On a recent 70th birthday card, my dear friend, Evelyn Mole, from Newcastle on Tyne, wrote that she feels I have managed to accomplish my 70 years of life ‘faithfully’. She never thought I would manage it. It is also comforting to know that our Stake President remarked that I was a ‘strong woman’. Yet, I have often felt incredibly weak.
I know what it feels like to have low self-esteem, low self-regard, a loathsome attitude toward myself; so much so that, at one time, I could not even look in a mirror without hating myself. The adversary exploits and perpetuates this weakness, so that sometimes, one can give into those feelings and become unable to function properly.
A lot of the elderly are desperate to use all their capacities to carry on as before, but it is not always possible. My husband experienced some hard times, which impacted his attitude and behaviour. He was in so much pain that, most of the time, he didn’t know what to do with himself. Like many couples, he ‘took it out’ on his nearest and dearest. I found myself doing the same things in my own moments of pain, or emotional and physical incapacity. But, with the Saviour Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice in mind, we can manage with our infirmities. We love each other very much, and that is so much more important than long and protracted periods of pain and suffering; these will eventually cease. Our comfort and support is based on knowing that we are ‘sealed’ together, and that we love each other; we do not give in to such negativity, or feel it is an excuse just to say – “I’ve had enough” and consider leaving the marital home.
Elder Quentin L Cook spoke of how such problems can affect us. “From time to time, as individuals and as a church, we go through periods of crisis and danger. Some arise quickly like a fire. Others are subtle and go almost undetected before they are upon us. Some require heroic action, but most are less spectacular. The way we respond is crucial. My purpose…. is to reemphasise to priesthood holders the importance of heeding the words of the prophets. This is one sure way to respond to physical and spiritual dangers of all kinds”.
I sometimes feel a lack of ability to get where I want to be. It’s frustrating. Reaching 70 may seem like a ‘turning point’ – we might consider ourselves no longer young or middle aged; we no longer feel fit and active. The body and mind seem to creep slowly, and sometimes rapidly, into a wrinkled state of ineptitude, neither responding as you would want them to. You just cannot do what you once did. There are feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. These can be our realities but worse is the risk of allowing oneself to hear the adversary’s whispers that your Church peers do not think you are of any worthwhile use in the kingdom anymore – a lie that should never be heeded. I have always been reliable, consistent and given 100% in every area of my life. This is probably the hardest thing to cope with as 70 looms and then becomes my everyday existence. Yet, now in my twilight years, and with lots of blessings from my Heavenly Father, I can look back on these past years, and feel that I have tried my best.
Many elderly (70+) members of the church have given their time, talents and experience to our church; over many years, giving sound and solid service to their Heavenly Father and His beloved Son. Despite the negative feelings that may overwhelm them at times, about themselves, they keep going, giving and are constantly grateful for the joyful blessings that come their way. Their faith and service have led to a posterity of wonderful disciples who love God more than themselves and will continue to do so, until their joyful and earnest leap through the veil to meet their Maker, whom they love so much, and who loves them even more than they ever thought possible. It makes all this life worthwhile.