I’ve been reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. She really nails old age – in a realistic and positive way. She was 60 in 2004 when the book was first published, neither old nor young.
The narrator, a minister named John Ames, is in his late 70’s writing a letter to his young son, whom he knows he won’t get to see grow up. John has a bad heart. He’s reviewing his past for his son and wondering what to expect in the next stage of existence. He believes in heaven but freely admits he doesn’t know what it will be like.
I’m older than John Ames. Like him, I love the beauty and wonder of this world. Though I’m in good health I’m aware, like him, of life’s fragility. My existential question is different from John’s. It’s this: How can I live in the present moment in a way that feels loving to others, that makes the world better for my having been here, and pleases God?
Another way of asking the question is, “What am I called to now?” Covid has shut many doors, but others are opening:
–The imminent birth of a great-grandson, my first male descendant after nine girls. The last male born on my side of the family was my father in 1907. This is a BIG event!
–Supporting (with money and mentoring) a college student whose parents came from Africa. I love getting to know her better.
–An invitation to run one or two workshops at a regional denominational church conference in October.
–Finding a new way to use some wonderful interviews I did with people who’ve reinvented themselves in ways that contribute to the lives of others. The book I planned didn’t find a publisher, but the raw material is rich.
— With my husband Jim, using our life experiences to accompany patients and their families as hospice-volunteer “caring companions” to those who request one. Some will be solo agers, homeless people, or prisoners. We’ve been accepted and are waiting for Covid to lift so we can begin.
Old age is not a time to quit. It can be a time of growth. I can’t do everything, but I can do something meaningful. And loving.
At whatever age you are right now, what is your call?