Having discovered that this past Thursday, October 1st, was the International Day for Older People, I couldn’t help thinking about how I have grown to become more Eleazar than Old-Woman-Wearing-Purple.
When as a young mother I first I read Jenny Joseph’s poem about a mother who fantasied breaking loose in old age, I was totally enamored with the purple-wearing old woman, who spat, and drank, and caused all kinds of mischief. Feeling the constraints of motherhood’s demands, I smiled at the liberation I might feel someday, too, going from a staid, highly responsible, respectable mother into a radical free spirit.
Imagine! (Honestly, I cannot. Where was my head? What was I thinking????)
Fast forward to today. As a grandmother, there is no way I would ever want to act that way. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent on me–with all my heart I believe–to uphold feminine respectability, sensitivity, sensibilities—plain old personhood dignity. And as an adopted daughter of the Most High God, that responsibility born of purely human origin, I think, too, radically increases!
And so, more than to the woman in Joseph’s Warning poem, I find myself relating to the Maccabees’ Eleazar (Macc. 6: 18-31). Though he be a man and I a woman–apocryphal or not–he is my Old Testament senior role model and hero!
Yes! Given the chance to spare his life by feigning eating pork, he chose death, referring to his old age and the need to give proper witness to the youth.
In commenting on proving himself “worthy of [his] old age,” in accepting willing martyrdom, Eleazar gives me pause to reflect on the obligations of old age—not just its privileges.
In a culture that is quick to stereotype old age as an embarrassment to those who have to witness the deterioration of the elderly, for as long as I am mentally competent, I pray I always choose to live in accordance with the highest levels of moral standards and social graces (which means–at the least–no spitting, and no cursing…Uh-oh, did I just say no using inappropriately “colorful” language? …Please remind me of that pledge when someone cuts me off while I am driving!)
Borrowing from Eleazar, what does it mean to behave in ways that are old-age worthy?