In the past few years, my father has shared with me with his voice sounding of defeat and peace, “Mary, I am in my sunset years.”
“Sunset years?” I ask.
“I am in the sunset club of getting older and old. There are things I can’t do anymore as when I was younger. The sun rises and the sun sets. Sunrises are full of a new dawn of hope and learning and sunsets are full of a new understanding and wisdom to be at peace and serenity. Both are beautiful.”
“Dad,” I said slowly, “I think life is not only about sunrises and sunsets, but I think it is about the warmth and catching and being and basking in the sun in that time between the sunrises and sunsets. Just enjoy life. As is and as it comes. Try to be present. In the moments that go really fast. Just be a suncatcher.”
My dad smiles with a twinge of joy and sadness in his eyes. “It is good to be young. You need to make friends around your age and be around the young to help you as you have special health considerations that so many do not think about or face until they are old and my age.”
Alas, I am a child at heart with an old soul, and I’ve never really connected and clicked in this world particularly with people around my age. Here’s the funny thing as that as I’ve gotten older, I am bewildered that there is a whole wide open population of youth seeing me as older and as one to help the younger. When did that happen that I was no longer younger and became the older to help try to guide and even mentor others? When did that happen that I am still considered younger than the retired who see me as a student hungry to learn from the teacher called life?
Not purposefully, I have been making new friends, but those that I tend to connect with are not the younger, but are the older. Even older than my Dad.
One is 103-years-old; She wears fancy jewelry and talks about her time in Russia and China as we sip strong and smoky black tea over an antique square teapot from China. Another is 84-years-old who took a liking to my keen interest in piano playing and broke out tickling the ivories to play “You are my Sunshine.” He calls me up to connect me with the community to share my passion and advocacy work on life and organ donation and transplantation work. Lastly, there is my neighbor from when I was a child who hugs me hard and looks deep into my eyes with shiny bright eyes to hear how I am doing while her TV blares of shootings, bombings, and killings around the world. When I see her, she says: “I remember when you were just a little girl. You still have those chubby cheeks. You always have a special place in my heart. And, I love you.”
In all these elderly people who have unexpectedly come into my life in recent months, I see how they are in their sunset years and trying to catch as much of the sun and warmth as they have remaining. I also see those in their sunrise years as new parents or brand new babies or maybe even mid-sun that are trying, learning, failing, falling, surviving, and just doing their best at living. All around me, I observe the sunrisers and sunsetters, but I cannot help but wonder if they are at all suncatchers? Are they making the most of everything in between the sunrise and sunset? Are they basking in the glow of the warmth of the kaleidoscope colors of the sun that life brings BUT also learning and living from the storms, wind, rain, and cold and cruelty that also comes with being a suncatcher?
There is great beauty and glory in catching the sun that is the in between of the sunrises and sunsets. Are you present and in the moment as is? Are there things now that you can no longer do when you were young? What is your idea of young? Would you ever want to be young again? Do you tend to get along with the ‘older’ or ‘younger’? Have you ever become a mentor or role model to others as well as look up to others—not based on age, but on experience and a connection with the person? Are you a suncatcher?
My wish for you to be a SunCatcher—not about the sunrises and sunsets, but about the glow, spark, and warmth of sun in certain moments and times with those who make the sun worth enjoying.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,