By Patricia Allwood Hindman
This morning while taking a shower, I removed a couple of taped markers from my breast marking the scars where I had surgery two years ago. Yesterday, I got the good news-cancer free for two years. As I pulled away the tape, I thought of how intrusive it first felt to my body when it was marked with temporary tattoos, seeking to find what could destroy my body. This morning, I had already forgotten that I had the tape on me. It was then I recognized I have entered a new stage of letting go for me. Letting go of my body-the final stage of life. It is not frightening, but it is fearsome. It is fearsome because my body is the final piece that keeps me tied to the earth. Yet, it is freeing to begin to become as I was in the beginning, all spirit.
I, like most “going gray” people, have already let go of so much. I have downsized, and downsized again. I don’t need as many clothes because I don’t go to work everyday. I don’t need the latest kitchen conveniences because coffee and a breakfast bar does for the morning; lunch is usually out with a friend; and dinner is maybe some fruit. If I’m feeling particularly celebratory, maybe I’ll partake in a glass of wine.
Next, I began to let go of houses and all the entrapment within them. By then, they weren’t homes, but plaster and boards. Home is now wherever family and friends are.
I did not realize until this morning, however, I have begun to let go of things relating to my body because, let’s face it, it’s futile work. I can exercise to keep muscle tone to keep me walking, but I can’t change the sagging skin with any amount of miracle cream out there. I can eat healthy most of the time, but I still need an afternoon nap some days.
It was when I removed the tape that marked the spot where the cancer had been removed, however, I realized just how much I have let go of my physical self. I hadn’t worried about the result. If more cancer had shown up, I would have walked that path. I would have made decisions as what to do with my body. I have been through sickness before, and I will face it again. My body may survive; it may not. Suddenly, I realize, I have downsized on this earth to the point I am in the process of releasing my body.
I’m thankful for the opportunity of aging because the process allows us to let go slowly. Some have life yanked out of them before they are ready. That’s the cruelty we observe in young deaths. And yet, when I come to the realization that the body is the last physical hold on earth, I begin to see why we often feel so tied down to “things.” We are not born into weightiness, yet throughout our life, “things” accumulate like heavy, overripe fruit on a tree, bending the limbs down to earth, not up to heaven.
As we go gray, the weightiness begins to lift, leaving us lighter, less concerned about houses, cars, money, successes or failures, and, eventually, Botox and tummy tucks. It is then we begin to feel our weightlessness. It is like spending our days swimming in salt water more than trudging uphill. It is then we come nearer to loosening our hold on life and reach toward eternity.
Going gray releases us from all that encumbers others; we float easier; we rise to greater and wiser heights; and we becomes more spirit than body. In other words, in “going gray,” we grow nearer to God.
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