It was in a poor neighborhood. An old man whose name escapes me would come in every night and sit in one of the chairs and watch. He was probably in his 80s. He was close to the end of his earthly life. He appeared to be very poor.
The old man had never trained in his life. He now had such joy watching us, and knew if he were in a young man's body he would be with us in second. Night after night he would take his long walk from the apartments across the street. He appeared and would enjoy the free show of us training. Over time I grew to think of him as a member of the dojo - indeed he was. He came and contributed his presence and his spirit. His mind was eager to learn the art of aikido, even if his body had given up the pursuit long ago.
I feel now the lesson he had to offer is that it is never too late to study the lessons of aikido. Most of us are at some point on the path where pain and health are a genuine factor in our training. Yet night after night we show up trying to find our place, our current level of training we can push ourselves to.
At one point in my career I found myself too injured to train, yet I showed up to the dojo and drew pictures of throws. Now one of my students and friends is having a similarly difficult path. I look into his eyes and see a future for all of us that train - a moment were we cannot. Perhaps this is part of budo too, the pause for injury and healing and the end of ability all together.