Photo by Maryellen Thomas rsj.

Each month, Pope Francis asks for our prayers for a specific intention. For the month of July, the prayer intention is for the elderly.

The Story of Two Women

There is an Alaskan Legend about two old women who were left to die when their tribe came across hard times. The families, who loved their elders, were sad as they walked away, knowing that they would never see these venerable women again.

Many months later when the tribe returned, themselves depleted through not being able to find food in the icy cold winter conditions, they were amazed to find the two women alive and thriving.  This could only be a miracle. Furthermore, the women had found and stored food.

This is a story of transcendence; the emergence of the impact of Eldering. These women demonstrated the rich elements of generosity, relationship, zest for life, generativity and quest for the divine – characteristics that distinguish Elders from those of us struggling towards Elderhood.

When the women were left behind, it wasn’t because they were not loved by their families. On the contrary! They were aware that their age made them too slow to travel and that their slowness could risk the lives of the rest of the tribe. They generously gave all they had, themselves, for the good of the whole.

Once on their own, they only had each other. The strength and bond of their relationship and the love they had for each other gave them the vigour to overcome their incapacities and enabled them to care for the other and to ensure that the other lived.

These were native women, naturally attentive to the life around them. Their spirits connected with the spirits of the creatures of their surroundings, the soil that gave them food, the wind and the sky.  Their very souls were receptive to the sound and nuances of Earth’s movement. This connectedness gave them a zest for life which enabled them to lean into life wholeheartedly.

Psychologist, Erick Erickson, describes generativity as the elder being “eager and able to generate life from their abundance for the benefit of the following generation.” The mission of these two women, through developing skills of rummaging and food storage, resulted in the survival of the tribe which created social change. For them, it was about the life of the tribe existing long after they were gone.

What we saw in this story was a mature love that came from a deep place, a response to the attraction of their spirits to the spirit of the Divine. We saw in these women the ability to live with sorrow, to love deeply and to passionately engage with the fullness of life.

As Carl Jung says:

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. Your age only tells you how long you have lasted but it says nothing about how much you have risked to grow, love, stumble, forgive, grieve, create or care for others. In the end, it matters less how long you have lived than it does how fully you have lived and how faithful you have been to who you were called to become.
Mr. Purrington, 7 February 2022. Carl Jung on the Second Half of Life. Carl Jung Depth Psychology.

Maryellen Thomas rsj