Chuck Edwards and Alfred, Lord Tennyson get it right.
by Ken Garfield
You’d think that sitting at Chuck Edwards’ kitchen table talking about growing old would fill a heart with dread. It filled mine with hope, that the time we have left can be rich with meaning. As Edwards shares in his new book, the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson got it right: “Tho’ much is taken, much abides…”
Chuck, 73, a Charlotte native, was a cardiovascular surgeon until a hand tremor forced him to find a new career in medicine. After going back to school for training, he founded Memory & Movement Charlotte in 2013. The nonprofit medical practice is devoted to caring for those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia. This is personal for him: He lost both parents to Alzheimer’s. Day in and day out, as he tended to the elderly, he heard a broader call — to rekindle the passion in aging hearts and souls.
Life’s exhilarating journey doesn’t have to end in an easy chair, channel -surfing, wondering if this is all there is. As he writes in Much Abides: A Survival Guide for Aging Lives, the light doesn’t have to grow dark at twilight: “A new reality is just ahead. The voice that is linked to dreams and talent can be heard again, if you listen for it.”
At age 67, I am the perfect audience for this book, which made editing it so rewarding. When Chuck writes about dealing with hearing loss and sleep apnea, I can relate. When he writes about the importance of social interaction, I think about the obituary I wrote for a gentleman before he needed it. I asked him what he loved to do in life. “This!” he said, referring to sitting around over a cup of coffee talking about the things that truly matter. When Chuck advises us to quit worrying about technology, I want to shout, “Yes!” I suspect readers of a certain age will shout along with me.
But the beauty of Much Abides goes deeper, and its message resonates even with those still running the rat race. We get only so many years on this good Earth. Don’t waste a moment.
Is an old wound keeping you and a loved one apart? Reconcile. Has past regret — a road not taken, a decision that didn’t work out — filled you with anger or anxiety? Forgive yourself. Did you play the trumpet way back when? Drag it down from the attic and wail again. Are you loathe to ask for help, whether it’s balancing the checkbook or navigating a flight of stairs? Feel the love in taking someone’s hand. There is even wisdom for a pandemic: Use all five senses to find peace in the quiet of a quarantine, even if it’s as pure and simple as holding another’s hand.
There is magic all around us, at any age. But first we must choose to find it. The poet Tennyson has given us our mission in life: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” SP
Much Abides: A Survival Guide for Aging Lives is available from Memory & Movement Charlotte at mmclt.org, (704) 577-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sales support the nonprofit medical practice. It’s also available at Park Road Books and Traditions, both at Park Road Shopping Center, and on amazon.com.
Freelance writer/editor Ken Garfield is a frequent contributor to SouthPark magazine. He also helps charitable causes tell their stories and writes obituaries. Reach him at email@example.com.