God knows me so well. The flight to Dublin was long, but there were movies and books and time to think, so it passed along full alright. One of the movie options on the plane was “Older than Ireland,” a documentary interviewing the oldest citizens of Ireland. I loved it so much.
As I watched the film I learned many lessons about wisdom and wrinkles, about how important time is and how it can grow and weather the soul. There is joy and sorrow deeper than anyone could ever imagine in the folds of a 114-year-old brain.
Here are the lessons one by one:
- Respect and breathe life into elders.
Let’s be real, we owe the older ones in our life a lot of love. They hold so much love in them, but they need it just the same because they also hold a lot of hurt. They have seen history unfold, the good and the bad. They have seen numerous births and deaths, losses and treasures. They have wisdom that only ferments with time. “Happy but lonely,” one of the elders repeated three times in the documentary, expressing just how she felt in the moment.
- They still have child-like hearts.
One woman held a pair of old and tattered shoes. They were very small. She told the story tucked in their laces. Her father so badly wanted to buy them for her. He worked extra hard, saving money and finally bought them. As he was bringing them home he was hit by a carriage and killed instantly. When they saw his dormant body he was holding the shoes.
As she told the story, her eyes showed the pain. A few times she bowed her head in silence, ruminating over the holes in her heart the fatherless life created. She still felt like that little girl, joyous over shoes, but shattered to the bone about her father’s death. Her body is old, but her heart still tender, like a child’s, still vulnerable to pain after many years.
- Love endures: choose love or choose bitterness.
At one point they reminisced about the first time they saw their love, the first time they kissed them, their proposal, their marriage, their kids, and their death. As they spoke there was a twinkle in their eye, pure joy with lots of love for their dear husbands or wives. One man hollered enthusiastically after describing his first kiss with his wife, so sweet and pure. When they talked about the deaths of their love, their demeanor turned down and the pain became tangible.
After all these years they say there is no secret, but there is:love. They allow their love to cover up the pain. Their bodies are old, but their souls are young and cannot be kept captive in a dying world. They still sing and drive, garden and stoke fire. Some of them sit at tables by themselves, while others celebrate their 100th with family.
The only thing that you can take to heaven is people. You can’t take your house or your car or your cellphone, just you and the ones you gave love to. God is love and he is what endures. I do believe these beautiful people keep that in their hearts, tucked away but available to those who cross their path. You just have to love them and ask.
And so, here I am in Scotland, with cobblestone streets and timeworn houses. The time that has passed through this little town, and the big one next door, has left a lot of wisdom, a lot of love, and a lot of grief in the windows and doorways. Oh my, to see what these buildings have seen would be soul-testing, but also a testament to enduring love. Someone has mopped their floors and given them fresh coats of paint, preserving their stunning substance. They deserve so much appreciation.
As I am here I will be trying many new things, but I appreciate all of the old I have. My old house back at home is just as beautiful as this palace. So, when I see the old I will give it the honor it deserves.
Time will only tell.