In Budo, the martial arts, you practice ‘the art of dying’ in combat and in life. Bruce Lee said, “To accept defeat. To learn to die is to be liberated from it.” In my Aikido Seminar, the French Woman Aikido Sensei said, “Enter the attack and die with honor.” Surrender to winning and to losing.
Through my Aikido training, Budo evolves as part of me. I try to live by that code. I discover power in my surrender to the Way. Granted doesn’t speak to everyone. Everyone’s “cup of tea” comes in different flavors, different sizes.
Inevitably, we surrender to the path that best serves us as we grow older. We all wish to live our lives with honor. The bigger picture transforms in growing older with grace. We all discover our own Art of Older.
One weekend, I called up my Mom to catch up. Mom is 88 years-old. Mom lives in a Seniors Home outside Honolulu. She barely walks, and resides mostly in her wheelchair. She does her weekly physical therapy religiously. She’s at peace in her physicality.
Mom has dementia. So she struggles to get some of her words out. Her memory selectively fades in and out. Although, her heart remains true, kind, and strong. I’m grateful that she still remembers me when we talk.
I had sent Mom the copy of my self-published book to her Seniors Home. Thank God for Amazon Prime and free two-day shipping. Amen. I asked Mom if she started reading my book. Mom had started to read. She was so proud. She told me that the book was long. Yeah, my narrative style can be rather exhaustive. She knew my book was an homage to her, Sensei Dan, and my dear friend John. Mom had met both Dan and John in past years. She loved them too. They loved her, too.
Mom complained that the print was so small. I said, “Mom, you gotta use your glasses.” She laughed. I laughed too. Nope, Mom refuses to use her glasses to read. She still makes me smile, unintentionally.
Mom is the genuine lightness in my life. She always has been. Like Sensei she listened and saw me as greater than what I was willing to hear or see. For me, Mom is older; she’s greater.
I finally learn from Mom about growing older with grace and kindness in your heart. She gave all of herself to my sister Carol and me. I remember her making us rice, eggs and sausage for breakfast before rushing off to school. I remember holding her warm hands, sitting with her at the retirement home.
When I experience fear I listen to her voice, “Jonny, slow down.” For Mom the world was never just about her, her world was about those she loved. The world just worked that way, too.
Maybe, the Art of Older is keeping love in your heart regardless of age. The Art of Older is about caring for people no matter the circumstance. Thank you, Mom. I love you always.
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