I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six months hanging out with very old people. My mother was ill, and during my frequent visits to Ohio I often slept on the apartment couch and ate with my father in the assisted living dining room. Many meals were spent conversing with people who were wheelchair-bound, shaky, or had no short-term memory.

There is something heroic about these very old people soldiering on in spite of their losses and disintegrating minds and bodies. It’s not just their predicament of course, but all of ours, to eventually lose everything. Some of us are just not as far along the path.

I know I’m sounding like a downer, but in Buddhism impermanence is one of the primary facts life. We can try to ignore it or deny it, but eventually, as we age, that becomes pretty hard to pull off. Fortunately there’s a freedom that comes from fully embracing impermanence. Or so I hear.

Last weekend I went to a concert by Young@Heart, a group of about 20 people in their 70s and 80s who sing pop songs accompanied by a rock band. It was striking how the familiar pop lyrics took on a completely new meaning when sung by people that age.

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days–
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do*

When the first gentleman stepped into the spotlight – his body stooped, his pitch a little wobbly, but his spirit strong – I began to cry. Not because it was sad, but because it was poignant…the difficulty of life and the resiliancy we manage in the face of it.

*”These Days” by Jackson Brown