I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was old. Something clicked off I imagine and the dark circles came and my hair got thinner and silver and my face wrinkled like a prune….seriously…like a prune. I got a sad look from the bone density tech and my weight dropped off. I became brittle literally over night. My eyes are red most of the time with an eye disease my mother had when she was old. Only I am not really old in years yet.(or maybe denial is not a river in Eygypt). I just feel like I have been swimming in chlorine for hours. My ears ring and hiss and roar. My joints pop and crackle (sheesh I sound like a symphony) When I was young and healthy my body was quiet. As in no noise. Now everything sounds either muffled or really loud. What? My Dad turned 90 this summer. He is vibrant and active and healthy. When I was driving and was seeing halo’s and stars around the lights coming at me I asked him if he saw those things too (he said No he just saw the lights) Great..I’m older than my dad. I was seriously worried about that until I removed my glasses and found that without my glasses I didn’t see the halo’s or the stars either. (Scratched lenses) Hahaha!
I also have hair that grows in the strangest places and hair that is falling into shower drains and on black sweaters and jackets at an alarming rate. My goodness what happened to the long-haired girl with the big hazel eyes and the toned muscles and the smooth skin? Where the heck did she go? I miss her. She was a beauty by some people’s estimation. A face for Hertz, a body for Club Med. There were travel brochures with her big eyes looking over her tanned shoulder holding a tennis racket. Now I look in the mirror and I see my mother. Some days I see a really old person, who’s sick and hurting with pain. It’s not easy. Truth be told I am NOT liking this. Not at all Not one bit.
I was reminded today by my therapist (yes I have a therapist) that my legacy will be something much greater than my looks. That if I get to live 20 more years (that would be some feat as I was sent home to die at 24) and I continue to do the work of funding the water wells (we are on our 19th) that for every child who lived and went on to have children, my legacy, my divine purpose will be revealed in heaven when thousands of people come to me to tell me they had life because I lived. I realized that as long as I have purpose I have a reason to live. The orphans and their suffering has been my purpose. That purpose has carried me through years where I gasped for breath with the pain of living. That purpose has reminded me when I saw no hope, that those precious people for whom I give my heart and life are in worse conditions than I am, suffering. Knowing that has prompted me to rise from my sick-bed and fight. For them and for me I fought back from a pesticide poisoning that caused my stomach to shred like I had swallowed glass. Bent over for months I pushed myself to get up, go to a chair, say a prayer, dream a dream, try to eat whole foods again (everything I ate was pureed like baby food). Those orphans, with their big eyes and their protruding stomachs and their skin and bones needed me. I could help them. It pushed me to live again. I fought back from cancer (twice) and I continued to write about those orphans. I wanted the world to remember them, even as they seemed to forget me. Those orphans reminded me of their courage and their laughter in the face of extreme poverty and sickness. I took great strength from their stories. I took great courage from their ability to be thankful with so little when I truly had been given so much. Through no fault of their own they were born in Africa, not America. Through no cause of my own I was born in the land of plenty. To NOT help them is unthinkable to me.
So yes, I am older. I am weaker, skinnier, wrinkling and by American standards of youth and beauty declining. But I am reminded that as long as I have breath I have purpose. I have God in me, I have a few dear ones who support me and my cause, I will carry that purpose to my grave and one day perhaps in heaven a man will come and hug me because the water saved him as a baby and he went on to a long life, fulfilling his purpose to help his people live. It’s a beautiful gift purpose. It changes the world It carries you home.
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