Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm growing old and death awaits

Been thinking a lot about growing old. The other day I thought, I'll be 64 when Morgan (our granddaughter) is 13. And I've not let go of that thought; it's been haunting me.

My father was in his sixties when he died, and my mother was 75. If I die at 75, that means I only have 21 more years to live.

And as May Sarton (or is it Mary Oliver? can't remember) asked:

What will you do with this one wild and precious life?

In my youth I wanted to be famous, but that was compensation for being afraid to be seen. That particular wound is largely healed now, hence the fame-fantasizing thing is gone as well. Of course, now that I think of it, I got an email this week from a representative of some company that publishes academic materials, asking if they could publish my dissertation, and I found myself quite interested. Probably a scam, but I sent back a response, didn't ignore it, just in case.

And here I am blogging. Not a desire to be famous, but it certainly says something about wanting to be known/seen.

Maybe the wound isn't as healed as I like to think...Fame as Hedge Against Death.

I also continue to be troubled by this lingering sense of ... what now? This came upon me after I got married, got the Ph.D., and began actually living out my dream of ministry. What am I striving for now? What goals do I set for myself?

And I know that goals have also been a kind of Hedge Against Death. To stop and simply be, to really live into the phrase Just as I Am, to accept myself and know that God accepts me just as I am right now even if I never grew and matured one whit ever again -- Yikes! What a scary proposition. I know the healthy thing is to live inside the paradox of Growth/Goals/Doing vs. Being/Acceptance. The best thing would be to live inside that tension between opposites creatively, but the Being/Acceptance side of it is not easy for me. I equate it with "OK, I'm ready to die now. Come get me, Lord."

It's the problem of believing I must earn my (existential and otherwise) salvation. Denying the grace that is mine. I've identified this problem, this lie, for so many others and have helped them work through it. And God knows I've worked through this myself many many times. And it is. The wound yet wounding.

I guess the other thing, thinking about growing older, is this sadness at leaving the earth. Standing at my kitchen window looking at the green everywhere -- the grass, the trees and bushes, and the beautiful flowers all different colors this year--oh, it took my breath away! I walked with my friend Pam this morning and I noticed how lovely the path was...such a deep green (for Texas, anyway). I do love the beauty of the earth. Oh! I really do. And I don't want to leave it.

And then I started thinking about coming home tonight -- I'm doing a wedding at 6:00 -- and being able, such a lovely thing, to come home to my family, people I love. David, the girls and their friends, Morgan. That's what awaits me when I get home tonight. No longer do I come home to an empty house. Ah! How grateful I am. And how MUCH I want that to continue.

The more I write the more I realize that I'm saying "YES" to life! YES YES YES YES YES!!!!! I love life. I want life.

The key is learning to let it go, when the time comes for that. To let my life go with grace and gratitude.

In the meantime, perhaps learning to LOVE it like this, more and more, with greater and greater appreciation, is what I'm after as I grow older. Imagining myself at I old and crotchety, mean-spirited because I'm afraid and continuing to cling? Or am I old and lovely, extending grace to everyone I encounter because I have an abundance of grace within me and it just naturally overflows?

Ahhhh, the latter. Please God, the latter.

7 comments: said...

Lovely reflection. Thank you. I think part of the difficulty in getting older is how the horizons shrink. When you are younger, there are many possibilities to what you will be and do. But as you grow older and make choices, the number of possibilities diminishes. You can no longer marry anyone because you have married this person. You can no longer get a degree in anything because you chose this field. And so on. So happiness comes not so much in imagining possibilities (although there still are some) but in finding contentment and fruition in the choices you have made.

Anyway, peace and blessing to you as you enjoy life.


Mompriest said...

I have often felt and thought this too....not so much lately when I find little in my life that I enjoy...but I trust that this will pass in time...hopefully while I still have some life left to enjoy :-)

RJ said...

On Friday night, we were at the Jennys' concert with youngest daughter (30) and son-in-law - dinner and conversation, too. During the concert, one of the band members was talking about learning to rest/remain in the moment - and how hard that was for her. "So after the show," she continued, "someone said to me, 'you know, worrying is like praying for stuff you don't want to happen.'"

I've been laughing and reflecting on that all weekend. A contemporary way of sharing Psalm 37, don't you think. I certainly resonate with your challenge. And I don't think I have figured it out either... with the caveat that learning to let go of the worrying is a clue.

Keep sharing. I am grateful.

Black Pete said...

My father died of his first and only heart attack at 50. In a sense, this has haunted me ever since, and even though I have outlived his span by 12 years, the oddest thing about aging is not having him to ask how it feels.

It's a trip without a map, and those of us still on this side of the earthen wall perhaps can help each other try to make sense of it, and peace.

Often, I feel like I am in a rip tide, and swimming against it is not an option. Swimming with it in a peaceful state may reward much.

Thank you for your reflection and your honesty. I'll drop in again.

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This is something funny I know life is precious so we have to live every single day as it being the last day, obviously we have also to plan our life because we never know what's going on then.m10m

IRS Tax Help said...

You gotta realize we all die, but you need to not worry about when and live in the moment.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are going to build a little ranch out in the country.I am realizing that we will finish our remaining years there. I am so melancholy about the whole thing. Our children goodness I didnt realize the effect this was going to have..I just turned 60. Time goes so fast I am so greatful I have God to help me sort this out