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James R. Stout

The Forever Spring

            I decided to go out to eat for a late lunch or early supper. You choose. So, I went to a Tex-Mex restaurant that I haven’t been able to go to in several months. Just me by myself. I truly don’t like to do sit down eating in a restaurant by myself, but there just wasn’t anyone else to go with. As I sat there in a booth, I took notice of some people sitting at two different tables across the way from me. It became a study of the young and the old.

            At one table two older women, probably in their late 60’s or early 70’s, sat. I noticed immediately that they neither one smile at all. At the other table sat two young women, probably late teens or early 20’s, and all that they seemed to do was laugh and talk. The older women were both dressed in modest clothes while the two younger women were both wearing shorts that I would never have allowed my daughter to wear and tops that matched.

            The younger women seemed to be constantly moving and fidgeting. It was obvious that they had enough energy to power California. The older women didn’t move other than to drink out of their glass or lift a fork to their mouth. That’s when I first noticed something. One of the women had extremely deformed hands from arthritis. I’ve seen it before, but she must really be suffering from the effects of the condition. Meanwhile, one of the younger women must have been a drum major because she kept twirling her fork through her fingers and her joints were anything but arthritic.

            Finally, the two older women got ready to leave. That’s when it truly became obvious that they both suffered from physical ailments related to the elderly. One of the ladies reached around and took hold of a walker that I had not noticed before. One of her legs was wrapped in some kind of bandage and she got to her feet in an unsteady manner and wheeled her way towards the check-out station. The other woman, the one with arthritis, slowly got to her feet. She was taking a to-go cup with her and she couldn’t hold it in her hand. She had to balance it between her forearm and her side. She stood up and when she began to walk it was more of a slow scoot toward the door. With each step she was obviously in pain. As she passed by my booth, I looked at my cane and thought to myself that my problems weren’t so big after all.

            A couple of minutes later the younger women got up and left. They both fairly well bounced out of their chairs and made their way to the check-out station at roughly the speed of light. After seeing all of that and comparing the two sets of ladies, I realized that I had just seen something very important. Most of us had those days of being unencumbered by physical restraints. Jumping, running, skipping, and all that goes with being young came to mind. Those two young ladies still have their lives stretched out in front of them. The two older women not so much.

            I remember when I was young, I would roll my eyes when the older people would do what older people do. Complain about their aches and pains and ailments. I used to wonder why they did that. Well, there comes a time when you get old enough and your body is wearing out that you are sometimes consumed with how you feel. For a young person who hasn’t gotten there yet, have you ever had a bad toothache? Or perhaps you took a spill on your bike and skinned your knee. You most likely thought of nothing else but that skinned knee or toothache until they were healed. For many older people they just don’t get healed from their aches and pains. Their bodies are just worn out.

            My last thoughts of what I had witnessed were that some day those two young women, if they are so blessed with a long life, will understand why the older people shuffle when they walk or walk stooped over or complain about their joints hurting. If there’s one thing that we learn by getting old, then it’s the fact that there truly is a time for everything. We don’t really remember the beginning of our lives, but when our spring is in full bloom, we are running through the fields of budding flowers and loving it all. Then the summer of our lives comes and we’re at our strongest. These are the years that a man builds muscles and works as well as plays hard. It’s a time for women to bear children and amaze the men in their lives at their strength. It is a time for soaking in the energy of the sun. Next comes the autumn of our lives. It creeps up on us. A little ache here and there, but at first, they go unnoticed. We’re still doing things, but we start to notice that we’re not as fast as we used to be. Bending down and kneeling may be accompanied by a popping knee and a backache that requires a couple of Ibuprofen to make it go away. By the end of our autumn our eyes are not seeing as well, our hearing starts to fail a little, and those aches and pains appear to be there for good. Finally, we live the winter of our lives. We start to really slow down. Naps are our friends. We keep on moving for as long as possible, but in the end, we can’t do much moving at all. My father was 93 and had just had his leg amputated. His heart was working at about 25%. It was a miracle he was still alive. I sat with him at the hospice facility and one day he looked at me and said, “I’m never going home, am I?” That’s when I had to tell him the truth. His life here on Earth was about over. In fact, he passed away 3 days later. But I also told him something else. As a man of faith, I knew he knew this already, but I felt compelled to remind him. I said, “Dad, you’re about to go to Heaven. You’re going to have a perfect body and it will NEVER deteriorate. You will be able to run and jump like you did when you were a child. You will be in the presence of God and your advocate will be Jesus.” I thought about it a little more and then said, “You’ll next be experiencing the forever spring.”

            To all my friends and readers, no matter where you are in the stages of life, you too can one day experience the forever spring. When you see someone much older than you, then know that they are that much closer to eternal life. When you see someone much younger than you, don’t be jealous because you had your time. Pray for each other and ask for God’s blessings for the people that you meet. Share Jesus with them and make it possible for them to one day experience that forever spring.

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