"As a growing child, I considered every adult over thirty as being old. Like all the young, 'being old' was as distant to me as the concept of death itself. With regard to reaching old age, I never thought that one day I'd get there. Then, one year, it suddenly crept up on me when I wasn't expecting it.
One of the sad things about growing old, apart from increased illness, is that others cannot always see the child inside you, still playing a part in all you say and do. I have long held the view that if only we could die young at heart and old in body, we would have cracked it.
And yet, there is much to be be thankful for being old, for having got there when millions of others didn't. The oldest people I have ever personally known were born before and grew up between the two world war years, 1914-1945. They were also two of the strongest characters one could ever meet. Indeed, when one considers the things they had to do with their limited range of resources at their disposal, one can only marvel that they survived at all to be able to recount their wartime experiences.
Between the ages of 18 and 21 years, I was a regular visitor to 'The Cheshire Home' in Cleckheaton as a member of 'The St. Vincent de Paul Society'(A parish based charity whose members visited the sick and socially excluded in local communities). I realise that such an activity wasn't usual for a full blooded male, who would, under normal circumstances, have been off chasing girls or visiting the pub with his friends. Having survived death myself, following a serious traffic accident at the age of twelve years, I vowed that if I God allowed me to live that I would spend the rest of my life helping others to do so. God lived up to his side of the bargain and I have tried to live up to mine ever since. While at 'The Cheshire Home,' I never wasted an opportunity to hear the old soldiers tell their tales, and from their reminiscences, I learnt of things I might never have known of. Common to most of their growing experiences, 'responsibility' was placed upon their shoulders for this or that as soon as they were considered capable by their parents of carrying the burden. It seemed to be the way of the times of teaching the young how to stand on their own two feet and to grow up into responsible adults.
Not only did their experiences and upbringing help many of them live to a ripe old age, but their strength of character taught them how to grow old with dignity, by treasuring their independence as long as possible. In today's age, where few of the healthy young automatically stand and give up their seats on a train or bus for their seniors or a pregnant woman, the old see that vital absence of communal respect that society once embraced a a significant loss. Their pride encourages them to cling on to their independence for as long as possible, especially if they feel unable to confidently rely on any other. They have learned that as they travel along the pathway of the modern 'progressive' world; whereas being old no longer opens doors for them, advancing age has still left them with sufficient dignity of knowing how to walk through them gracefully.
The wisdom of the old makes no attempt to wriggle out of their time by smoothing out their wrinkles with cosmetic face overs. They know that a beautiful lived-in face will age, and that it is the way of nature for the ageing body to lose much of its muscle physique and mobility towards their final winters; but a warm heart will never grow cold nor a a 'good egg' be ever anything other than a 'good egg.'
You are never too old and it is never too late to give ear to the new or to apologise for past wrongs. You are never too old to lose touch with the child within you, who will stay with you always as a background shadow following you into the sunset. You are never to old not to matter, never too old to stop caring and never too old to stop dreaming. We are alive, but a short span of time on this earth and dead a long time after we have breathed our last. All the more reason to make up with all those whom we have broken peace with before we meet our Maker. All the more reason for us to make every day that we live matter and to tread gently on this side of the green sod before we find ourselves six feet beneath it!" William Forde: October 5th, 2016.