I am, in part, a partner pilgrim walking into the sacred spaces of those who dare to quest for a vision. One particular man was seeking to be initiated as an elder when I smudged him and helped pray him into his solo fast. A butterfly floated in and landed on my left hand, next to the eagle feather and smoldering sage. I am here to usher you into the in-between, the liminal space where you are neither here nor there. I meet you at that threshold, witness your crossing, and am here when you return to share your vision. I mirror that wisdom back to you.
As part of my journey I have a heart for those in mid-life and late-life transitions. It is important that these stages are aided in their healing because without them, who will be the example for our children? I began the Becoming an Elder seminar as a way to honor and explore the late-life transition in a way that fosters a generation that is and knows their value.
One Elder who has joined me said that I met her at the threshold of mystery – where letting go makes room for what you don’t yet know. She later began to create an art installation using pictures of Elders. The things she shared that was most fascinating to me:
- A search for aging gracefully pulled up surgery options
- Images of elders from North American countries were well manicured and perfectly quaffed
- Images of elders that were not polished to perfection appeared to be those of third world countries
If we as a community are to honor our Elders, who do we mean? I am touched by the story of the wilderness therapy session where the woman walked in a forest and realized her lot in life was not worthless, her value was that of the mature trees that sheltered and nursed the younger ones. When I say Elder I mean the ones whose wisdom is quiet and mature, not boisterous and young; whose sage advice is timeless; and whose experience is worn in their face.
For the Elder who joined me, it is a process of letting go of blind service for everyone and everything, in favor of mindful service that honors the simple, slower life where money matters are handled and the aches and pains of growing older are permitted.
Who are your Elders? What do they need? How do you honor them?
When you reach a point where you are not sure what you want to do but you know where you are headed, I suggest you ask the Elder You, what would s/he have you do?
They have been there, done that, and weathered the storm.
They are You in another form.
The transition to this stage is like any other: we push it away…we pull it to us…we struggle to understand. Being an Elder is not the destination, it is a leg of the journey on the way to becoming an Ancestor.
How do you define Elder?