Turning 75 by God's grace

Advancing years have not dampened desire to see an end to injustice and cruelty
Turning 75 by God's grace

Author Edita Burgos, a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, joins a demonstration in Manila to call on the Philippine military to surface her missing son. (File photo by Mark Saludes)

I turned 75 recently. By nothing else but God's grace, I have no maintenance medicines, my blood pressure is usually 120/80, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, HDL tests read normal.

Only an occasional pain in the knee and back and sometimes breathlessness when I increase my pace in the garden, bother me and slow me down.

A year ago, I had to give up running up the steps of the metro rail station instead of taking the elevator as a form of exercise. Of course a bad left eye (which may go blind in a few years due to acute macular degeneration) and spells of vertigo I call "factory defect" will always be here.

But we must agree that at 75 this physical state isn't bad at all.

My being born on Sept. 16, 1943 was considered "auspicious" by my family.

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Close to the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the patron of the Bicol region in the Philippines where I come from, my father's brothers were released by the kempeitai (Japanese military police during the occupation).

My uncles would always remember to send me birthday gifts because they considered this day as a second chance at life.

My time is occupied by activities in my Carmelite life — prayer, Mass, meetings, mission — tasks on the farm, accompanying my children and grandchildren in their pursuits, searching for my missing son (Jonas, abducted on April, 2007), human rights advocacies and there is still time to crochet, embroider, read and learn how to play the ukulele.

What I am saying is that, in a capsule, my days are full. Thank God for this post-retirement worthiness.

This doesn't mean there is no edginess that characterizes most elderly people or a hidden pique over the young's preoccupation with "non-essentials."

As Ronald Rolheiser puts it in The Challenge of Aging, "Waiting patiently in expectation does not necessarily get easier as we become older. On the contrary ... we are tempted to settle down in a routine way of living and say: 'Well, I have seen it all... There is nothing new under the sun... I am just going to take it easy and take the days as they come."

God forbid, I fear the time when my life would depreciate into a routine and lose its creative tension and I would "no longer expect something really new to happen."

Thus a simple blue butterfly flower (S. Clitoria ternatea) tea becomes "hope" of erasing cobwebs from our memory bank. (Blue butterfly is said to enhance memory.)

I take pains in serving myself blue butterfly tea in a red wine glass complete with a faint pink glass stirrer and a tempting sliced lemon perched on the rim, to enhance this hope.

A breather from planting is spent in a hammock under the mango tree with a ribbon tied to another tree so I can rock the hammock myself.

A simple "good night" to a granddaughter would be laced with "I love you sweetheart."

These make the challenge of aging more inspired, that is, without excessive unrealistic aspirations.

My youngest brother's 60th birthday was on Aug. 31. His cake read: "I've done it all. I've seen it all. I just can't remember it all."

So whatever is possible within the reality of corporeal or mental ability or inability, I will explore.

Admittedly, there is still disquiet in my heart. My children and friends "hush" me when I say, "I want to see God." Yet don't we all? We simply tarry because we want His assurance that "by faith, we have access into God's grace ... and look forward to sharing God's glory (Romans 5:2)."

"You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you (St. Augustine)," thus I think the disquiet is a healthy state, an optimistic "forward-looking holy episode."

"Near the end of our lives, many of us struggle to move ... beyond all the resentments that come with aging," Rolheiser said. 

Nearing a new life, I still have unchecked items in my bucket list. I still have love letters to write. I still have seeds to plant.

I still want to fight for a world without disappearances. I still desire to see a Philippines liberated from self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-regarding, and unjust cruel leaders.

Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen — believed to be soldiers — abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing.

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