Saturday, February 4, 2012

On age and scars

I played piano for the funeral of a 94-year-old woman this past week. Her family requested a long list of her favorite hymns to be played as medleys at various points during the service. The church was full and the mourners silent as I played arrangements for fifteen minutes before the service began. It was a time to reflect on what it is that we're all doing here.

I've known people who are intensely uncomfortable with the notion of aging. They are repulsed and even angered by the losses associated with it. It's a great pity, really, because their fear feeds into so much of what is wrong with our society. There is no grace with that kind of attitude, no respect, no peace.

Don't get me wrong, I spend my fair share on ridiculous creams -- one for my face, another for under my eyes during the day, another for under my eyes at night, another for my d├ęcolletage , another for the rest of my body. It would be embarrassing if I weren't quite aware that it won't prevent the inevitable. And it would be sad if I didn't understand that youth and beauty come at least as much from the inside as the outside.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying that "beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art." And a quote from Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, reminds us that beauty may not come in spite of loss, but because of it.

"On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."

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