I have been away from my family for three months. I’ve only been back two days but already I notice a further decline in my father’s abilities. This is a man who used to swing a hammer and climb ladders and carry lumber around on his shoulders. Now, at the age of 80, he shuffles along on slow unsteady feet. His once strong back slopes forward making him physically unbalanced. He sleeps about fourteen hours a day. He needs assistance with bathing and dressing.
What happened to the fun-loving, boisterous, hard-working patriarch we all knew and loved? He’s now in the body of a man who wants only to eat and sleep. Perhaps this time of extra rest is his reward for decades of hard work.
This morning, I took a walk with him down the lane. He felt dizzy and was unsteady, so we only made it partway. This is a man who used to beg us to go for walks with him. Only a year or two ago he would have joyfully walked for an hour or more if we’d been willing. Now instead he begs to turn around; he is too tired.
Walking with him I become hyper-aware of how strong and flexible my own body is. I become acutely conscious of the gift of my healthy body. Like many women in this dysfunctional society, I have become accustomed to criticizing every minor flaw of this middle-aged body that does not match the gym-sculpted bodies seen on billboards or movie screens. But when I compare my body to that of my father, I realize it is incredibly strong and infinitely capable. I suddenly want to stretch and run and dance in gratitude of this body I’ve been given.
I say this to myself as much as to you, if you are blessed to not have a stroke, or MS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, or cerebral palsy, or Alzheimer’s, or any number of other diseases or disabilities, then please celebrate the body you’ve been given. Recognize it as the magnificent vehicle that it is. Let it run and play and hike and dance. Let it lift and stretch and carry. Let it paint and cook and plant. Let it touch and be touched. Let it hold babies and make love. It is an amazing gift. Even the angels don’t have bodies like we do. Glory in your beautiful body. It is truly a blessing.
Let’s all stop criticizing our bodies. This American culture is way too obsessed with appearances. Does your body move? work? play? feel? Then celebrate it! Love it! Express gratitude for it! The more you love it, the longer and better it will serve you.
Thank God for our blessed bodies.