There’s a viral video going ‘round, a clip from an upcoming documentary “Alive Inside” about  (their description) “the power music has to ‘awaken’ minds considered closed.” The “subject” is Henry, an older man in an assisted living home. When his nurse speaks to him, he answers to his name, but the other queries leave him confused. His daughter describes her memories of her once-vivacious father, the type of man who would break out into a full rendition of “Singing in the Rain” in the middle of a sidewalk. The camera pans to Henry in his heyday, a tall, strapping and well, hell, attractive man, and then back to him now, in his wheel chair, head hung low, seemingly closed off to the world. It’s hard a contrast.

Enter music. Henry’s nurse gives him an iPod Shuffle full of his favorite songs and he lifts his head, his eyes open wide. He taps his feet, shuffles his legs, rocks his body. They’re not drastic movements, but I imagine in his mind, he’s swinging around the street poles with his kids again or transported back to some Cab Calloway dance, limbs askew, doing what we’d now call “getting it in.”  This time when he talks he’s animated, eyes open and full of energy, maybe something akin to being his old self.

I couldn’t stop myself from crying, a mixture of joy, a bit of marveling at the power of music, but a bit of fear too. I’m on what some call “the better side” of 30, beyond the “Forever Young” stage, and lately I’ve been thinking more about inevitability rather than invincibility.

I’ve started doing things I never thought I would too, like staying up at night thinking about my legacy, pondering with great seriousness what to do about three grey hairs (pluck, dye, ignore?), groaning like my grandmother used to saying“Lord, give me strength!” when I try to stand up after falling out after a good run. I used to think people were lying about the changes that come after 30. They weren’t. And it all makes me wonder how I’ll end up, well, at the end.

My grandmother was already in her sixties by the time I entered the world. I saw the pictures of her as a young woman; trim waist, full Marcel-curled black hair and a jubilant smile that few people wear after 25, the age when most have seen enough in the world to dull the glow just a bit. By the time my grandmother and I met, her curves had filled out, and her full hair was thin and grey.

She was the First Lady of her church, its organist and choir director. She maxed out at five-feet, but behind her back the kids in the youth choir mocked her catchphrase, a threat of “I’ll break your leg!” when they acted up. No one really thought she’d do it, but then no one acted a fool long enough to test the theory. It was Detroit in the 80s, even ladies could get a little gangster when need be.

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  • MK

    This is one of her best pieces. Ever. Blog, book, period.

    I recently attended the funeral of a co-worker who died unexpectedly. He was a young 50 and I, an even younger 25 and staring at his closed casket, couldn’t help but wonder if, for all our dreams, risks, hustle, and sacrifices, is that all there is?

    Thanks for writing this, Belle. Most won’t admit it, but there are a great deal of us on each side of 30 who wonder about legacies, knowing that one day our legacies will be the only signs of our lives.

  • Alexandria

    Belle, your article flowed nicely. I never thought about how important life’s accomplishments will be in the end. It’s kind of scary when you put it that way. But I agree with your last statements. We have to live for right now.

    • Dreaming

      I think about what life’s accomplishments mean in the end all of the time. Ultimately, they don’t seem to matter. Whether one is born rich and lives a great life or is born into poverty and struggles, ultimately it doesn’t matter because we all have the same fate.

  • jaclynsd

    That’s sad Demetria that your mind goes to “it kinda kills your motivation to participate in the first place.” But all of that doesn’t matter because even if you do get to that point where you don’t remember…others will. Trough your books, blog, and yes especially your coaching, others have benefited from you being here. You have to look at the bigger picture. Your grandmother, although she didn’t remember you or her husband of 6decades, contributed to the great woman you are today, and does she really need to remember who you are? I don’t think so, you’re her legacy girl and your future children (if you chose to have them) will not only be yours but countless other who’ve you touched w/your word whether written or spoken. So think about your contributions to others and the bigger picture. Your legacy is not so much what YOU’LL remember, but how others have been touched, inspired, and changed by you being here. :) Thanks for the piece.

  • I am 72 and full of life and vigor. I read daily complex esoteric books. It is not inevitable that a person will lose their memory and sense of reasoning when they age. It is all a sense of attitude and the type of selftalk one does. Oh and refuse to let others convince you that you are weak. I also take long walks and feel energized. Life is for living and giving and it is only natural that one stays strong. Sickness and feeble mindness is a illusion that I refuse to recognize for myself.