Twenty years ago about this time, I started writing a song about turning 60. The “hook,” as songwriters say, was “Is that 60 I see in the mirror/standing there staring at me? What happened to 30 and 40/and the young man I used to be?”
I was busy then. That’s about as far as I got. Most songwriters I know have short attention spans.They also tend to procrastinate. So do I.
When I turned 80 last Wednesday, I thought about writing a song about it. However, I was too busy living it to write it. I think that’s a good thing. After all, age is just a number -- even if it’s 80.
That said, reaching “The Big 80” has been a bittersweet experience. Bitter because I lost my first wife Nancy in 2005. Other dear friends have passed on before and since then. The biggest blow for me personally came Jan. 2 this year when my older son Tommy died of a heart attack. He was barely 55.
Losing a son or daughter in the prime of their life is not in the natural order of things. Nor is losing a brother. My younger son Larry and I have been coping with the poignant passing of Tommy as best we can. We’ll never get over it, but we must get through it -- together.
Thankfully, the sweetness of life at 80 springs from the steadfast support of my extended family and my friends, old and new. Their many acts of consideration and kindness fill up my senses more than words can convey. So I’ll just say publicly what I’ve said privately: Thank you!
Hanging on the wall behind my desk in my writer’s cottage is a large, beautifully framed rendition of Bonnie Mohr’s popular poem, “Living Life.” I share it here because it’s among my favorite poems. And because Betty gave it to me shortly after we were married:
Life is not a race but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work hard. Be Choosy.
Say “thank you,” “I love you,” and “great job” to someone each day.
Go to church, take time for prayer, The Lord giveth and the lord taketh.
Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper.
Love your life and what you’ve been given, it is not accidental -- search for your Purpose and do it as best you can.
Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be.
Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them.
Some of the best things really are free.
Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul.
Take time for your self-plan for longevity.
Live for today, enjoy the moment.
For me, Bonnie Mohr’s poem captures the essence of “Living Life” more elegantly and more eloquently than I could ever express. It reminds me daily what matters most: my faith, my family and my friends.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.