This week I’m leading a service to celebrate the life of a dear friend and an inspiration, Connie Foulke. An ardent teacher, parent, and community leader, Connie was one of my reference points for how to live a good life for over thirty years. A while ago she organized a group of “young friends” (most of us were only in our late 50’s, after all) for lunch and tea. Our honored leader even gave us a name: the Pleiades, and she requested we each choose a the name of one of the stars of the constellation, research the mythology behind it and select one that fit. After all, Google was a wonderful invention that would help us out. Connie was that kind of thoughtful. That kind of thorough. She was what used to be called “a class act.”
When I turned sixty I flew back to Kansas City for a gathering of high school friends who were also celebrating that passage. I asked Connie to give some advice to those of us twenty years behind. She was rather frail at that point, and I expected her to dictate a couple of lines over the phone. Not Connie. What I got was a call, four or five days later, that I should come and pick something up. When I opened the bag Connie had left for me, there was a double-sided page of thoughts in an ornate old English font, printed on fine parchment-style paper. The title was “octogenarian observations.”
I’ve been inspired for a year by her well-honed life, and her careful advice. I thought about excerpting this and sharing it in pieces because there’s so much wisdom that it’s hard to digest in one sitting. Then I decided to post it as it is, in its entirety. It’s such a testimony to a brilliant mind, a wise heart, and a generous heart. Not to mention a model of conscious aging that I continue to find helpful. Here it is:
Laugh a lot, even when it hurts. You’ll feel lighter for it.
Forget the feeling that you’ve forgotten something. If it’s really important, it will eventually sneak back. If not, so what?
Listen to classical music. It will soothe your soul and envelop you in peace.
Consume quantities of chocolate! There is never too much.
Dump people, possessions and practices you don’t want or need any more.
People: “Remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.” (Nikki Giovanni)
Practices: give up compulsions. For example, if you don’t enjoy sending Christmas cards, quit. I did two years ago.
Love and enjoy your children and grandchildren on your own terms.
Drink plenty of water. It is good for your innards and keeps you active with frequent journeys to the bathroom.
Take the phone of the hook if you want to nap or read undisturbed.
Wear whatever suits your fancy, new or old. But comfortable.
Use lovely perfume and enjoy your own scent.
Take your favorite jewelry out of the box and wear it for your own enjoyment. (You didn’t acquire it to keep it in the box.)
Nap frequently and enjoy your dreams!
Damn the clock. Keep your own time. Get out of bed when you feel like it and stay up as late as you wish. (But to be on time for appointments and engagements that involve others.)
Spend time on crossword puzzles and Sudoku to challenge your brain and enjoy the success of solution.
Eat quantities of fruits and vegetables, especially local produce.
Travel–actually, via TV or film, or in remembrance of things past.
Sometimes hang out with young people; their energy and enthusiasm may be contagious. It is surely uplifting.
It’s OK to need a little help. Use a cane or someone dependable to lean on.
Peruse old photo albums and vicariously enjoy fond memories.
Look at the clouds, the sunrises and sunsets, and MARVEL over creation.
Occasionally retreat into your shell and look at the iridescent nacre inside, like highlights in your life.
Believe in what’s good.
Vote for Obama; he’s the hope for the future of our beloved country.
Finally, as Micah said, Do justly, Love mercy, walk humbly with thy God.