98. The Beauty of Aging

98. The Beauty of Aging

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

The Beauty of Aging

Take time today to appreciate beauty — natural beauty, art, people. Slow down, breathe deeply, smile. It’s a beautiful world.

~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Jason and I talked about getting married, but it was really only talk. I knew we were over when he refused to go home with me on a cold, snowy New Year’s Eve in New York City. He wanted to stay at the party to be with his new friends, and I didn’t hear from him until after 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day. We broke up by 10 o’clock that night.

Jason and I had been together for three and a half years, and we had spent ample time with each other’s families while we were dating. My favorite person in his family was his younger sister Dayna. Dayna was twenty-nine, just two years older than me, but she seemed to be living a far better life. She had tons of friends and a great career working for Target in fashion design. When she walked into a room, her smile just lit up the whole place. From the day I met her, I knew Dayna had a spirit uniquely her own. She loved life and was genuinely happy. I admired her.

After Jason and I broke up, though, I stopped talking to his family. It just seemed like the right thing to do. That is until I heard the news: Dayna had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of thirty-three.

I couldn’t believe it. It was so sad, such a tragedy. She was too young and had her whole future ahead of her, but cancer has no boundaries.

Dayna immediately started an online journal at CaringBridge. com. There, she recorded her journey from the beginning: meeting the many doctors who were trying to save her life, going through her first rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, feeling so sick and tired she wondered how in the world this “medicine” could be working to cure her. But at the end of each journal entry, no matter how difficult the day had been, Dayna would sign off saying, “Smile Today!”

When she received her diagnosis, Dayna had already left New York City for Minneapolis to work at Target’s headquarters. It just so happened that I was going to Minneapolis for a convention so I decided to give her a call to see if we could get together. Ever the sweetheart, she invited me over to dinner with her and her fiancé, Tom.

When Dayna picked me up at my hotel, I took one look at her and was flooded with compassion. She was so thin and pale. She no longer had that long mane of blond hair with pink highlights that had made her so funky and stylish in the past. Instead, she was wearing a knitted beanie to keep her head warm. But her smile was still there. So was the sparkle in her eyes. Even though she was tired and cold, her spirit radiated from within. I was so glad to see that cancer hadn’t stolen her fire, especially since she had lived with it now for over three years, a near miracle since the cancer had spread to her lungs.

Just a few months ago, while I was reading Dayna’s online journal, I was inspired by what she wrote. This was not the first time Dayna’s words had touched my heart, but a clear message came with her words. She wrote:

“Thirty-seven, this is heaven. I am so happy to be growing older. When a doctor tells you with a sad face that you have a few months to live, each passing birthday is an event to cherish. I don’t take the fact that I am getting older for granted because there are too many that don’t get this opportunity.”

I’m pretty sure that prior to reading this journal entry, I was bemoaning the fact that I was getting older. It was harder to lose weight, and I was starting to notice some wrinkles.

Aging does have its downfalls, but the fact remains that we are all so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate to even be alive. And we take this fact for granted every single day. There is a great beauty to aging. If we have lived well, we are now stronger, more loving, and more understanding than we were before.

These days, Dayna spends a lot of time sleeping. But still, whenever she writes in her online journal, she mentions three things that she loved about her day. On the 4th of July, she listed chatting and laughing with her younger sister, getting a postcard from some old friends and watching the sun shine through colored glass bottles in her bedroom. It’s the simple things that are most wonderful in life, like love and beauty.

Every time I find myself bemoaning the fact that I’m growing older, like when I panic that I’m thirty-five and haven’t had children yet, I think about Dayna. She has taught me to appreciate each day for what it’s worth, which is everything, and she has reminded me to smile. No matter what our circumstances, we are all so blessed to be alive. Smile today!

~Mandy Iahn

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