In my earlier years, my mother would often say to me, “Someday when I am old and gray . . .” I later used the phrase with my children in what they rightly described as guilt peddling. No doubt at times my mother evoked the phrase for that purpose. Recently, however, I realized that “old and gray” had a much deeper resonance for her. Her worldview was so steeped in biblical imagery that I should have known her comment came from the Bible, and more specifically from Psalm 71:18: “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not.”
The writer of Psalm 71 did not use the phrase “old and grayheaded” to warn others of his eventual demise. When he pleaded, “Forsake me not,” it was not in a self-centered longing for solace, but as a request for added strength in his declining years.