This Thursday, October 26, would have been my and Ed’s 49th wedding anniversary. Being blind, and not able to take a trip to the store for just the right card, he used to write me some very special messages… the lyrics to a favorite classic rock song he wrote down line by line as he listened to it, or a simple special message to convey his love from the depths of his heart. For each of my friends, may you treasure even more the one who walks beside you in love.
Grow old beside me… share the depths of my heart on this path we call life…
Growing old together as a couple is an awesome responsibility… not one to be taken lightly. When young, we think we have it all together, and we know all the answers… But, as we age, maturity sets in… along with the realization that if we only knew then what we know now…
Without tending to the needs of the one sitting next to you, any couple can easily drift apart to go their separate ways… especially when the other is taken for granted. How much better that we overcome life’s obstacles together, and remain each other’s best friend and champion for life… to share all of life’s emotions in joy and sorrow, pain and peace. Unfortunately, I also know that’s not the way things always turn out due to many unforeseen circumstances. Yet, I also know it can be said that every marriage has its difficulties and irritants between two imperfect people… with forgiveness and understanding being key to working through the issues that tear at the foundation.
As I contemplated this poem and what to write with it, my thoughts meandered along until they happened to turn to elephants. Yes, elephants! Having read books in the past based on in-depth research and study of their lives, they amaze me. Not only do they have an awesome memory (“elephants never forget!”), but they also love and respect their family and herd members, their friends, and feel a range of emotions not entirely unlike ours.
We most often think of elephants and their anger, especially in a destructive killing rampage. Yet, elephants also know joy and share their excitement in visible ways, that “joie de vivre” we might share with our loved ones and best friends. They feel compassion, an empathy and tenderness toward another’s misfortune or sorrow. They grieve over the loss of a beloved family or herd member, and can visibly display sadness toward others who have known a loss. But, best of all, they know love, that age-old emotion we all appreciate.
The specific book which came to mind was one I’d read several years ago about an elephant born to circus performers in Germany – “Modoc, The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived” by Ralph Helfer. This little elephant happened to be born the same day as the owner’s son, Bram, a momentous and celebrated occasion. The two grew up together, playing and training, sharing a deep love and respect for each other. Different from most trainers of the early 20th century, Bram’s father trained his elephants with praise and respect, not with anger, threats and scare tactics.
After a lifetime of adventures, Modoc and Bram Gunterstein came to America where they were favorites on the circus route in the 1940s. Without Bram’s knowledge, the circus owner sold Modoc one day… into what became years of abuse. Eventually, she was bought by the Hollywood animal trainer, Ralph Helfer, a man who gently restored her back to health. As I recall, she was sad and despondent, and, at times, a raging elephant. Having searched for years to find his lost friend among various zoos and circuses, Bram eventually heard about an elephant in California which piqued his interest.
At Helfer’s ranch, Bram called out to the elephant. Even before being seen by the pachyderm, shrieks of joyful trumpeting could be heard reverberating in the air. Bram entered the fenced-in compound despite warnings by her handlers. Proving memory and love were still intact, Modoc rushed toward the man and showed an amazing tenderness to her dearest of friends. This part of their story never fails to bring tears to my eyes… and Bram continued to visit Modoc daily.
Grow old beside me… and as we age, may God’s love and wisdom thrive in the depths of our hearts as we draw closer to Him and to each other. “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go… For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my birth… Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me… [and] I will praise you…for your faithfulness, O my God…” (Psalm 71:3, 5, 18, 22)
Grow old beside me… with a tender love and memories of our life together… as the dearest of friends.
Grow Old Beside Me
Grow old beside me, share my heart’s secrets
Hear the deep sighs, passion from within
Take hold my hand as we walk this road
Share the heavy load, easing the burden.
Grow old beside me, share my deepest fears
Carry me gently when life overwhelms
Tenderly hold me as we face together
The storms that rage till peace covers my soul.
Grow old beside me, let me gaze in your eyes
There to see depths of courage and strength
A boundless love with wisdom and grace
Which guide with joy from eyes that dance bright.
Grow old beside me, wrap your arms around
Protect and shield from darts that assail
Lift me above the fray of this world
Hold tight my heart secure in your love.
Grow old beside me, don’t wander away
Renew your heart, seek not rainbow’s end
May our life show a far brighter path
With contented peace and depths of pure joy.
Grow old beside me, share words of wisdom
Speak from your heart the lessons learned well
Help me to see that truth is lived out
By daily seeking His light from above.
Grow old beside me, when my steps falter
May love in our hearts still shine ever bright
For there lies the key to joy abounding
As we stay focused on life’s true riches.
Linda writes from her home in Spencer.