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Commentary: Aging With Grace

By William Holston

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-955149.mp3

Dallas, TX – Not everyone grows old gracefully. But Dallas Attorney William Holston wants to do that. Holston says he's looking for ways to make every day count, in this commentary.

I turn 55 this year. I confess that realizing that I'm closer to 60 than to 50 is a bit sobering. I am rereading the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky's masterpiece about what we would now call a dysfunctional family. The father, Fyodor, who I always pictured as an old man, I'm surprised to read is just 55. He's managed to live his life in such a selfish, debauched manner, that when he dies he leaves no legacy but sadness.

I began this year with the idea; I'm at the age, when I should resolve how I am going to age with grace. None of us know how many days we have left, or when mental acuity will diminish. Last year, in an interview on NPR, Rabbi Harold Kushner said, "The difference between a person who has a happy old age and the person who has an unhappy old age is not how successful they were, but it's how much the things they failed at continue to gnaw at them. And no matter what you've achieved, if you're not able to still that little voice of disappointment, you are never going to be happy." We all have disappointments in life. I know I do. I'm years from the financial resources that would permit me to retire. I've been involved with great projects that failed. I haven't been as good of a husband or father as I'd really like to be.

I think one of the keys to overcoming the disappointments of life is to continue to grow as a person. I want to be a life-long learner. So, I've signed up for the classes to become a master naturalist. I'm teaching myself Hebrew Slowly. I'm resolved to do things which stretch me. Last year I spoke about my work with refugees at the Pecha Kucha event during Dallas Idea Week. It was very rewarding and challenging.

I intend to concentrate my energy on things that really matter. I've begun to mentor young lawyers through the Dallas Bar Transition to Law Committee. I'm finding that being involved with young lawyers is very energizing. Hopefully my experience will be useful to them. And, I find that I'm inspired by their enthusiasm, creativity and use of technology. One of the great things about law as a career is that you are always being pushed to meet new challenges. I am going to continue to hone my legal skills and increase my commitment to promote pro bono work to the Bar.

Devotion to friends is also a key to aging well. I experienced a reminder of this recently. One of my 19 year old son's friends and a son of a friend of mine died unexpectedly. My son told me that losing his friend caused him to decide not to hold on to petty resentments. He also didn't want to take things for granted and he made a point to tell me how much he loved me. I watched as other mutual friends reacted to this death similarly. Lots of us expressed love to each other for the very first time. "Keep your friends close," is what the Pastor said at the memorial service.

Considering aging and death should cause us to take stock of our lives, to vow to make each day matter. We should, as the Psalmist says, Count our days." That's another way to say, make them count.

William Holston is a Dallas Attorney. You can E-mail questions and opinions about this commentary to the "Contact Us" section of kera.org.