Book Title: The Real Home
Lengthening Shadows
Chapter 26
by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth

An ordinary day represents human life in miniature. The sunrising is an inspiration. All is robed in beauty. But as the hours go by, the sun scorches and withers the earth with its heat. By and by a storm cloud covers the sky. The lightning flashes. The thunder rolls. For a time, the sun is hidden. In the late afternoon, the shadows begin to lengthen. The day is closing. The clouds roll back. There is a vision of beauty that brings heaven very near. No hour of the day has been so filled with peace. The tasks are nearly done. The twilight falls. Night comes on. We soon fall asleep, and the weary day is over.

At the dawn of life, all seems fresh as the morning. We laugh, we play, we sing. But soon the burden and heat of the day press upon us. Stern toil fills the busy hours. Our steps falter. The storms and troubles of the years compass us about. We long for rest and peace. The hair whitens. We begin to realize that we are growing old. The shadows of life’s afternoon fall about us. Then comes the sunset, the twilight turns to darkness, and we go to sleep.

The things we reverence most are old things. The old mountains that seem to pierce the sky; the old rivers; the old ocean; the old stars that seem to be –
“Forever singing, as they shine,
‘The hand that made us is divine;”
old cathedrals; the old Bible; old pictures; old monuments commemorating old events, - all are cherished and valued.

But old age in persons is not considered desirable. We look forward with dread to the weakening of bodily and mental powers; for age brings death, and death is an enemy. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” We ward off its approach as long as possible.

It has been said, “No snow falls lighter than the snow of age; but none is heavier, for it never melts.”

No, it never melts – never. The whitening hair never recovers the color of youth. Time keeps the snow falling – quietly, steadily falling. The wheels turn steadily on and on, and they never turn back. We may sing, -

“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight;
Make me a child again just for to-night.”
But we grow older while we sing, and the wheels cease not their onward revolution.
“Our birthdays used to be so few,
So long to next from last;
But now, that we don’t want them to,
They’re coming thick and fast.”

But old age has its consolations, its delights. If the morning and noon of life have been wisely lived, age brings the quiet and rest of evening. Sunset is usually more beautiful than the sunrising, “and thine age shall be clearer than the noonday.”

We need not speak disparagingly of the old. Age is beautiful, honorable, eloquent, worthy of love and reverence. “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” The lengthening shadows bring the afterglow of an unselfish, useful life. “At evening time it shall be light.”

Some are very sensitive over evidences of advancing years, and apply lotions and dyes to efface the marks of time. Others bravely sing, -
“My face, I don’t mind it;
You see I’m behind it;
The people in front get the jar.”

There is a beautifier that gives charm to the most deeply wrinkled face and makes the whitened hair glorious. But his remedy does not come in jars of bottles, nor is it applied to hair or skin. It is the character formed before age comes on, an interest in the pleasures and pursuits of others, a steady purpose to be useful and happy till the time of resting comes.

We have all know such people. Their presence was a joy, an inspiration. Their old age seems as exquisite as the bloom of youth. … In a photograph of an old lady, every feature seems to reflect goodness and grace. Why was her life so long? And why does she look so happy? This is why:

 “She knew how to forget disagreeable things.
 “She understood the art of enjoyment.
 “She kept her nerves well in hand, and inflicted them on no one.
 “She believed in the goodness of her own children and in that of her neighbors.
 “She cultivated a good digestion.
 “She mastered the art of saying pleasant things.
 “She did not expect too much from her friends.
 “She never forgot that kind words and smile cost nothing, but are priceless treasures to the discouraged.”

Another important point was that she refused to worry about anything she could or could not help. Thus she kept her poise, her self-control, and retained her charm to an astonishing age. …

CAN WE LENGTHEN OUR LIVES?

There is no guaranty to be relied on which will lengthen life. One may join a “Hundred Year Club,” but that does not insure his living a hundred years.

Professor Hufeland says: “If you would live long, live moderately, and avoid a stimulating, heating diet, such as a good deal of fish, flesh, eggs, chocolates, wines, and spices.” He might have added strong drink and tobacco to his list.

Thomas Parr, it is said, died in his one hundred and fifty-third year. At death, his bodily organs were found in perfect condition. Probably he might have lived much longer, but the king of England heard of him, and invited Parr to visit him. After a few days of living on dainties instead of on his ordinary frugal fare, Parr died.

Because we are growing old, we should not therefore become inactive. Exercise should be taken moderately; but it is well to have something in which one is interested, to occupy both mind and body. Excessive work and athletic feats may be left for those who are younger.

Abundant sleep is required by elderly people. A short nap during the day is an excellent restorative.

Small ailments are not to be worried over, yet they should not be neglected. A cough, continuous pain in any organ, and other danger signals are to be heeded. If repairs are kept up, any machine will last longer.

Growth of mind should never cease while we live. “Mental locomotor ataxia should be resisted and overcome.” Paul, in his old age, wrote, “Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal.”

A writer of ability well says:

 “It is sad to see how many elderly and middle-aged women take it for granted that life holds nothing for them but the passive role of grandmother. Many a woman has but little time for study while rearing a family; but when the children are married and gone to homes of their own, then comes the time when she needs some outside interest. If she has not something to take her out of herself, she will turn to gossip and fancywork to keep her busy. This is just the time to devote herself to some particular study. … The women who never grow old are the student women, those who daily drink in some new chyle through memorizing, thoroughly analyzing, and perfectly assimilating subjects apart from themselves. Study in development, - it is eternal youth. The student woman who makes wise use of her acquisitions, has no time to corrugate her brow with dread thoughts of the beauty destroyer leaping fast behind her. Not considered or invited, Old Age keeps his distance.

 “Orison Swett Marden declares: ‘If you do not want the years to count, look forward instead of backward, and put as many interests into your life as possible. Monotony and lack of mental occupation are great age producers. … The greatest conqueror of age is a cheerful, hopeful, loving spirit.’” …

 VALUE OF PHYSICAL LABOR

Many men who have prospered in business retire from active life to “rest” and “take life easy,” as it is sometimes expressed. Their lack of occupation leads to inactivity, and often they become victims of disease and death long before these are due. While elderly people should “slow down,” yet if unoccupied, they lose the stimulation and satisfaction that work gives. Work is a valuable means for preventing illness, and also a good remedy for some diseases.

One woman advanced in years had long been an invalid, but she decided that some out-of-door work would be beneficial. She began to cultivate a few flowers and even though she became weak and dizzy and weary, she found herself gaining strength. Then she turned her attention to raising poultry. These occupations kept her out of doors, interest was aroused, and she again enjoyed good health.

A man of my acquaintance began life with a tendency to tuberculosis. Four of his elder brothers and sisters died of that disease when they reached the early twenties. He decided that he would live, not die. After an active life, at seventh-three years of age, he is still able to wield the woodman’s ax or to preach a good sermon. Physical examination declares him to be in almost perfect health.

CHANGES IN THE HOME

Among the saddest experiences that come to the aged is when the life companion is gone, and the bereaved one is left to journey alone. One mother who was called “the woman who wouldn’t grow old,” thus states how she passed through his trial:

 “My arteries have gown a little hard; my heart a little slow, but it still pumps good red blood with some of the dance of youth in it. Only once, except for weakened moments here and there, moments that youth also experiences, did I feel old. That was when, after forty-three years of companionship with one I never ceased to love, I knew that I must finish my journey alone. And then I hoped it might be a short journey.
 “When I saw the home that we had builded together broken up, the little things, trivial to others, but dear to us because we had selected them, treasured them, packed away; when I saw this – I was an old, old lady.
 “For I was indeed alone. My children were married and away. It was decided – by them – that I should make my home with my eldest daughter, and visit the others when I chose. And though the ‘breaking up’ was done with loving hands, it seemed as though it marked the beginning of my disintegration. …
 “Yes, then I was old. Too old to be transplanted, I thought. No child can understand. It matters not how great the love, how beautiful the surroundings, it is then that age creeps in and tries to lay one away on the shelf. That is the great battle of life.”

But after a year, this woman rallied, as many others have done. She interested herself in the affairs of family, church, neighborhood, and nation. She became a blessing, not a burden; the comforter of many in sorrow and trouble.

Only those who have long had homes of their own, and who are compelled by circumstances to live in other homes, can know the shadow that creeps into the heart and enshrouds the life.

Young people sometimes make a mistake in bringing father and mother into their homes. True, they should always be heartily welcomed there; but those who for years have managed their own affairs find it difficult to adjust themselves to such changes. They do not want to sit with folded hands with nothing to do. So father may say too much about his son’s business, and mother may “meddle” with her daughter’s housekeeping. Friction comes in, and the young people show they wish no interference, and the anxious, active old people carry about a wounded heart.

In that sad day to father or mother when the house is left desolate, when the life companion is laid low and the one who remains is left alone, it will be a comfort if the children who are married rally round the stricken one with assurances of love, and as circumstances demand, give companionship and support. It may be necessary for the father to accept the invitation of his children to live with them; and while father may be a care, he will also be a blessing. But if possible, father and mother should still remain in their own home, for no other will ever seem the same.

 “Keep your home, dear mother,” says Margaret Sangster, “if you possibly can, and let your children com to you. The plainest shelter that belongs to you is a better choice than the most luxurious resting place in a home that is not yours. In your own house, or in your own small apartment, you are free to do as you please, and this you will never be if you swell in another household.”

DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY

Sometimes a grave mistake is made by old people who have property, in turning it over to their children, to receive in return care and a home. It would be far better to hold what they have, while they live. That which we possess is a talent lent of God, and the owner is responsible for its investment.

It is important that all who have property consult proper authority and make a will, or better, provision in deed of trust. It should be drawn so it will stand the test of the law. Everything must be made very clear. Death will come no sooner if provision is made for this emergency, and those we support may be saved much loss and perplexity by the exercise of foresight on our part. Wife and children should not be left destitute. Often an active business man dies suddenly, without a moment for preparation, and when his business is examined, it is found in such condition that lawyers’ fees and other expenses consume a large share of that which might have gone to the bereaved family.

We certainly should not delay preparation for the future life till we are on our deathbed, nor make the mistake of leaving the adjustment of business matters till our stewardship is about to end. The time to set everything in order is before illness and death come. This should never be postponed.

In bequeathing property to relatives and friends, it is well that we remember our best Friend, to who we owe all we have. God gives power to acquire wealth; and all possessions are lent to those He makes His stewards, as talents to be increased by service. There are many enterprises in need of support, those which are calculated to bless mankind.

Old folks are sometimes forgotten by those who ought to remember them. There may be a heartache in the aged breast because the son or daughter does not write; the message hoped for did not come; their birthdays were entirely forgotten. They feel keenly that they are no longer needed, that their opinions are not respected.

We sometimes see the wistful, yearning wonder in the eyes when no word is spoken. If the absent son and daughter could only know how the old folks at home would prize a letter, how they wait and long for it when it does not come! But they are “so busy”! Yes, but father and mother were never too busy to come at the call of their children.

Why not send a loving “night letter”? How it would surprise them! The write oftener – the long, newsy letters filled with experiences, and telling them of the gratitude you feel for all they have done for you. Perhaps a gift now and then would not be out of place. Such little attentions make the heart sing for joy.

BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE

Some make a botch of old age, instead of making it beautiful. They become sour, peevish, critical. They bemoan the evil of the times, and complain: “It was not so when I was young. Then everything was brighter and better.”

“The wise man does not grow old,” declares Victor Hugo, “he ripens.” He is like the luscious autumn fruit. He still loves to minister to others, and becomes a safe counselor. The youth and warned and strengthened by his influence. The children love him. …

“BUT WHAT CAN I DO?”

This question comes in a quavering voice from dear old saints who know that their days for deeds of strength are past. They feel they are “laid on the shelf,” that they are “has-beens,” while all about them they hear calls for help and see tasks for which they have no sufficiency.

One old lady was heard to say, “I cannot even write letters now; my sight has failed, and my hand is so crippled it can hardly hold the pen.”

“I wrote texts and placed them in a basket which bore the invitation, ‘Please Take One,’ said another. “I called them ‘Crumbs of Comfort.’ But – but it’s beyond me now to do even that,” and the aged hands wiped away the blur that tears brought to her eyes.

But there is one avenue of usefulness closed to none, however aged or feeble, while life and reason remain.

That avenue is intercessory prayer.

A widow of great age, named Anna, served God with fasting and prayer. Her prophetic vision saw needs unseen by younger and more active workers. She prayed, and God heard her pray, and sent remarkable answers to her prayers. None are so old and feeble but that they can pray. They may intercede with God, an present to Him names and objects that need prayer.

“Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence.”

What encouragement is this to pray! The aged may use that key. Think of opening the “boundless resources of Omnipotence”! In behalf of all in need, let us pray.

Those who are old can still smile. Smiles are cheap. Anybody can smile. The cheerful smile imparts courage to those bearing heavy burdens.

They can speak the word of courage. So many need encouragement! They can cheer on the younger workers, and thus share their labors. By their example of patience and cheerfulness amid hardship and suffering, they greatly hearten others.

Older people can give counsel to the young. It may not always be gratefully received, but perhaps it will be heeded later on. The inexperienced feet must travel the road the veteran has traveled. If advice is given, coming not as from a dictator but from a friend, it will often be remembered and prized. …

Dr. A. J. Gordon met an old man singing. “Friend,” said Dr. Gordon, “why should an old man be so cheerful?”

“Not all are,” was the reply.

“Well, then, why are you?”

“Because I belong to the Lord.”

And are none others happy at your time of life?”

“No, not one, my friendly questioner,” said he, and his form straightened. “Listen to the truth from one who knows; and no man of threescore and ten shall be found to deny it: The devil has no happy old men.”

The psalmist prayed: “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. … Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not.” God’s answer is: “Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”

During the more active period of life, some do not find time for Bible study that they desire. That holy Book is the staff of age. If read daily, its pages will be as an anchor to keep the soul in every perplexity and sorrow.

“We all do fade as a leaf,” says the prophet Isaiah. The time of fading is not a time of wailing to the child to God. He is nearing home. Who that has witnessed the closing hours of life for the Christian has not exclaimed, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”

“Paul the aged” struck the chord of victory as he neared the close of earthly life. He exclaimed: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”

The executioner’s sword had no terror for Paul. He was “read.” His eye was on the “crown,” the reward he was to receive.

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