Never Too Late for Romance

    It’s never too late for romance. Though young people may find this idea incredible, we never get over the longing for someone special in our lives, no matter our age.

    I don’t know how old Nellie Johansen is, but her face still reflects the blond, blue-eyed Nordic beauty of her youth. She’s tall, slender, and impeccably dressed. She walks her accustomed mile each day, rain or shine, even though she now depends on a walker to keep her balance. Recently she began a program of water aerobics to build her strength. She does everything with a positive, smiling attitude that draws others in.

    Our senior community is a happy place to live, although nearly every month there are memorial services for members who have finished their earthly journey. Many people here carry a burden of loss. Nellie herself recently said goodbye to her husband of many years. She moved into a smaller unit in the community but continues to be a part of as many activities as she can.

    One evening in April she came to the dining room alone and asked if she could join us at our table. We were soon engaged in cheerful small talk, but Nellie had something on her mind. “Did you know Orville James?” she asked.

    We’d seen him, a distinguished looking man who always seemed alert and ready with a quip. “He passed away Sunday,” Nellie said. “He was 99 years old.” Obviously Nellie needed to talk about him. “I had a date with him for Tuesday, last night.”

    A date? I had to know more.

    “He had invited me to go with him to the Sweetheart Breakfast on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “It was almost a year since I lost my husband and I guess Orville remembered that. The invitation really lifted my spirits.”

    They’d arrived at the breakfast early and took seats at a table for eight. They conversed for a while, although Orville had had throat surgery that left him barely able to speak above a whisper. He communicated mostly by writing notes. “But I could understand him,” Nellie said proudly.

    Then six ladies walked in, looked around, and sat down at their table. Orville wrote a note that Nellie passed around. “I’ll be the escort and helper for all of the ladies at the table.” A flutter of pleasure greeted the reading of the note, and true to his word, Orville saw to it that each lady had what she needed.

    Nellie teased him about having all those dates. “But I was the one whose breakfast he paid for,” she said.

    Shortly afterward nominations were being taken for “Volunteer of the Year.” Nellie planned to nominate Orville for the way he’d taken care of his “harem” at the Sweetheart Breakfast, but she arrived late to the meeting and nominations were closed.

    She sat quietly a moment, then told us that at church the previous Sunday someone had announced that Orville was in the hospital. She tried to call when she got home and spoke to his son, telling him who she was. The son regretfully informed her that Orville had passed away only fifteen minutes earlier.

    Nellie spoke of her friend with a smile. Of the almost century of his life, she’d shared only a few weeks. But she’d had someone special in her life once again, and it was good.

photo credit: Goa India Beach Sunset via photopin (license)

*The names in this story have been changed.

Facing Changes

    We moved to a new home last fall, and we’re still settling in. The neighbors are kind and friendly but because this is a retirement community, we’re all close in age. That’s a definite change from our old neighborhood with its people of many ages. This house, though beautiful and spacious, does not have nearly as much storage room as our other house, the frustrating reason we’re still settling in. Nevertheless, we chose these changes.

     Many changes come whether we choose them or not. When that happens, we can cling to God’s promise in Romans 8:28, that he works all things together for good for those who love him. Implicit in that promise is the fact that change happens. We’d have no hope at all if we couldn’t trust God to have our best interests in mind.

    Yet, as we age, the changes we face can bring grief. Favorite landscapes are altered by the demands of new generations upon the land. Society challenges or discards the values upon which we’ve built our lives. Loved ones die. How can we come to our later years without feeling bewildered, frightened, or sad?

    When my father was almost 84, dealing with physical ailments that had trapped his vital intellect and spirit inside an increasingly helpless body, I drove him back to our hometown to see the changes happening there. We passed the place where my siblings and I had spent weeks each summer, picking strawberries. Dad had been a logger then.  After a day in the woods, he’d come home and work until dark to clear land, make a garden, improve our home and put up other buildings.

    Now, he was saddened to see that the open vistas had been replaced by a sprawling elementary school and an encroaching subdivision. Across town, near the home of old friends Minor and Myrtle Bond, a new high school replaced the trees and fields. Dad and Minor had worked together when they were young.

    As we slowed to look at the new school, we recognized the bent old man crossing to his mailbox in front of us. Dad rolled down his window. Minor greeted us in the delighted, enthusiastic manner I’d forgotten, but which in an instant, swept away the intervening years. The two old friends conversed. One couldn’t walk and his voice wasn’t much more than a whisper; the other couldn’t hear very well.

    “How have you been?” my dad asked.

    “Oh, can’t complain,” Minor answered. “We’re nearly to the end of our time, you know.”

     I heard the tears behind the smile, and I wanted to say, “No, no, it’s just the beginning!” I knew that even reaching the end of one’s years on earth is a change that God in his economy means for our good. What I didn’t know was how I would feel when I reached the age of more than eighty. Would I still grieve for things I’d lost?

    Now that I’m nearly there, I know that we do mourn those things. But I also live with the faith that someday, the changes will make sense.
    I want to remember what the apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 3:10-13 about the changes that will happen when Christ comes back. The very earth and all that is in it will be burned up and replaced with new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. Those who belong to Christ will be there. We can look forward to his return with joy.

    Change then will bring no regret.