Maria smiles while visiting with a guest. Though nearly deaf and blind, she is filled with joy in life.
Mar 10 2017

A heart of gratitude after a life of struggle

Guatemalan elder faces aging with joy

Maria smiles while visiting with a guest. Though nearly deaf and blind, she is filled with joy in life.

Maria smiles while visiting with a guest. Though nearly deaf and blind, she is filled with joy in life.


Aging is in part a process of letting go. Abilities once relied upon begin to fail. Possessions once treasured can be lost or taken away. Sometimes these diminishments are slow and graceful and sometimes swift and cruel. But, for all who live long enough, they are inevitable.

Yet, for all that, there is a blessing in the ability to come to terms with our own human frailty and mortality. There is grace in the realization that, in the words of poet Theodore Roethke, “body from spirit slowly does unwind, until we are pure spirit at the end.”
That is part of the wisdom of the aging. It is a wisdom reflected in Maria.

Maria lives in Guatemala. Her life has been long and difficult. Her mother died when she was small and Maria says she still misses her. She has now outlived not only her husband, but also two of her six children. She has difficulty hearing and is also losing her vision.

Despite her hardships, Maria laughed when she described herself as “only 82 years old.” She understands the toll those hard-won years have taken on her, but she is also appreciative of the perspective they’ve given her.

“You must leave your life in the hands of God,” she said. “He is the provider of life. You should also walk and work in the outdoors. It’s the best exercise. It keeps you young.”

Maria has been sponsored through Unbound since October 2015. Her sponsors are James and Barbara from Wisconsin. She spoke of them with affection and gratitude.

“I met my sponsors. They came to visit this year, and this is the greatest gift in my life. They are wonderful people. We got together in San Lucas Tolimán. It was incredible, and it was like a dream. … Every Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m. we pray together. They pray in their country and I pray here. This was our promise.”

Maria now lives with her daughter and grandchildren and enjoys being a wise and loving presence in their home. In the twilight of her life, she takes nothing for granted and is grateful for the simple comforts provided by her sponsorship.

“God answered my prayers, he saw my need and he sent me two angels [sponsors]. I like the food. Thanks to my sponsors I can have food on my table, and I share it with my grandchildren.”

Maria appreciates her blessings, perhaps all the more for having endured so much. Her body may be, as the poet said, unwinding, but her spirit shines bright. She is content.

Larry Livingston

Senior Writer/Editor

Larry has been with Unbound since 2005. He has a background in theology, pastoral ministry and education, and has written for several national publications. Larry, his wife, Kristi, and son, Ben, have three sponsored friends, Alvaro, Maria and Michele.

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