They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Psalm 92:14
In Job 5:26 we read, “You will come to the grave in full vigour, like sheaves gathered in season.” That’s a fascinating verse. It reminds me of the scores of people who have made a profound contribution to society in their senior years.
Miguel Cervantes wrote Don Quixote when he was almost seventy. John Milton wrote Paradise Regained when he was sixty-three. Noah Webster wrote his monumental dictionary at seventy. Socrates gave his wise philosophies at seventy. Ignace Paderewski still gave concerts before large audiences at seventy-nine. William Gladstone was still a powerful political figure at eighty. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross at fifty-nine. Benjamin Disraeli became the prime minister of England for the second time at seventy. Johann von Goethe completed Faust at eighty-two. Thomas Edison worked busily in his lab at eighty-three. Alfred Tennyson published his memorable poem, Crossing the Bar, at eighty-three. Guiseppe Verdi composed Othello at seventy-three, Falstaff in his seventies, and Te Deum at eighty-five. Michelangelo was in his late eighties when he painted some of his masterpieces. Arturo Toscanini conducted an orchestra at eighty-seven. Grandma Moses did many of her paintings after ninety. The Earl of Halsburg was ninety when he began preparing a twenty-volume revision of English law. Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was seventy-three. And at sixty-nine, Hudson Taylor was still vigorously working on the mission field opening up new territories in Indochina.
But that’s how it should be. God never puts us on the shelf. We should come to the grave in full vigour. We should be fruitful in our old age. For it’s God’s will that the righteous “will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green . . .” Psalm 92:14.
This anonymous story illustrates the point:
The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.
She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?” I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.
“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked. She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel.”
“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age. “I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she revelled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.”
As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humour every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”
She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.” She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.
Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. More than two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.