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Saunders: Just getting to my best years yet … the older I get

So, have you gone back to the gym? For what it’s worth, I started back to the gym on April 19, hoping to make the commitment to work out on the NuStep for 20 minutes every day I’m there. Why the NuStep, you might ask? I think it is a good machine for my arthritis without putting undue stress on my body while I’m also undergoing some therapy for the big A!

I think some of my motivation for going back to the gym also revolves around facing the potential for turning 80 later this year. I’m not sure why that seems like a big milestone – or is it millstone? – but nevertheless it has me looking at what makes the last decades of life meaningful and valuable. While the reassuring sentiments of Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra” that I used in my May column were still playing in my head, along came an e-mail from retired Lutheran minister, Melvina Stricklin, containing the neo-traditional country song “The Older I Get” sung by Alan Jackson, that caused me to pause and analyze the words for their message.

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The song, written by Adam Wright, Hailey Whitters and Sarah Allison Turner, was released in 2017 by Jackson ahead of his official induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Now a man in his prime at 62, Jackson has sold nearly 60 million records worldwide, won two Grammy Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, and 19 Academy of Country Music Awards, as well as winning male vocalist of the year at the Academy in 1995, 1996 and 2002. Known as a family man, he has appeared with Bill Gaither on a number of occasions.

I invite you to listen to the song on the Internet for the message it conveys, even if you are not a fan of country music. I am printing the words to the song, followed by several interpretive comments that I hope will help us prime-ers see our lives as worthwhile and meaningful.

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The older I get

The more I think

You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it

‘Cause it’s gone in a blink

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And the older I get

The truer it is

It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff

That makes you rich

And if they found a fountain of youth

I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth

Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet

The older I get

The fewer friends I have

But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you’ve got

Have always got your back

And the older I get

The better I am

At knowing when to give

And when to just not give a damn

And if they found a fountain of youth

I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth

Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet

The older I get

And I don’t mind all the lines

From all the times I’ve laughed and cried

Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived

The older I get

The longer I pray

I don’t know why

I guess that I’ve got more to say

And the older I get

The more thankful I feel

For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still

The sentiments, though not particularly new, as you can see, are reminiscent of a message from the Old Testament scriptures that tell us that with age comes wisdom and clarity about the meaning and value of life, something that can only happen because of having lived a long and thoughtful life. Living in the moment and for the moment seems to be another piece of wisdom that the song espouses: on the one hand, it is the people we love, not “money and stuff,” that makes those moments rich; and on the other hand, the moment becomes a way of knowing and understanding ourselves before the moment becomes just a memory.

The song admits to sadness in our lives the longer we live. We lose friends, usually to death, but we can face those losses with the people who remain most important in our lives. We may face times of tears that created the scars of aging, but laughter has also helped to create those very same scars!

According to the song, aging has brought us closer to the God to whom we pray, not just by bringing our requests for healing and health, for family and friends, for needs and wants, but also by bringing our thanks for a life well lived now and into the future. The song, therefore, emphasizes that attitude matters in all situations.

Interestingly the song would not wish for a fountain of youth that enabled us to return to earlier years; rather, the song takes the long view of life and sees the years ahead as the “best years yet.” While that may seem to be wishful thinking as we age, what better way to contemplate aging than with optimism, with thankfulness, with joy!

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears once a month in Life & Times.

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