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An Ancient Beauty

January 28, 2013

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“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new” -St Augustine, Confessions

Do we take the time to appreciate the beauty and charm of the elderly? I’ll spare everyone the latest stories from the hospital and instead give an anecdote from a recent flight to Texas over Christmas break.

As I rolled down the aisle, counting down to my row… 15, 16, 17, 18 — there in 18D was an 80-ish-year-old lady. She was in the aisle seat, and I needed to get to the window. When she saw this, she smiled, propped her black cane on the outside armrest, and then gracefully swung both of her little tan-stocking-ed legs around the armrest. Her dentured teeth grinned from behind her bright-red-lipsticked lips. On the flight, she soon dozed off–what a blessed nap–and I couldn’t help but notice her finely pencil-accentuated eyebrows, her worn-with-age-but-still-beautiful wedding band, and her festive Christmas-Tree ring. She had a red sweater and one of those brass ‘jingle bells’ hung on a string around her neck. Her vein-accentuated, leathery hands may not have had the softness or musculature they once did, but they bespoke a life given for others. Indeed, she reminded me of those dozens of nameless old ladies who volunteer in our hospitals — smiling as people like me whisk by. Or I think of the countless elderly women who come dutifully to daily Mass, who place flowers near the altar, who begin the rosary in soft but steady voices.
Then I thought to myself: “The Kingdom of God is of such as these.” When our flight landed, she said the first and last words I heard from her, revealing her Texas drawl. As I helped bring her bag down from the overhead bin, a simple, “Well thank you, kind sir.”

No, thank YOU, ma’am.

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