I write this on the afternoon of the total eclipse of the sun. Thanks to some of our Television news stations we’re able to watch the passage of sun and moon across various parts of the States. It’s amazing and encouraging to see thousands of people united in uplifted faces, waiting patiently and peacefully for two minutes of viewing this rare phenomenon. A welcome relief!
Because of some recent discussions with family and friends, I had started out to write some thoughts on the challenges of aging. I thought of when I was only 16 years old and studied an essay of Cicero, De Senectute: On Old Age. (In Latin, of course.) At 16, this topic might as well have been eons away.
Nonetheless, it impressed me. We were told that Cicero wrote this essay to counteract the prevalence of suicide among the aging Roman population. Cicero outlined four advantages of old age over youth, only one of which I remember. He wrote that while the elderly experienced a decline of physical strength and agility, this was outweighed by an increase in their mental powers of wisdom and judgment. (A sad irony was that the professor who taught this class later developed Alzheimer’s.)
Now that I qualify for membership in this graying group, I find myself looking back on the many years that have led to where I am today. In particular, I review what has happened in my interior life, divided, like Gaul, into three parts: (1) the early years of growth in the Faith, nurtured by a devout widowed mother and Catholic schools; (2) the mid-years of marriage(s), child-bearing, child-rearing and departure from the Faith; and (3) the current years with my return to the Faith, widowhood and spiritual maturity.
I look back on many of these years and, at the beginning of this last phase, I mourned what had seemed a waste of so much of my life when I distanced myself from Christ and the Church. Twenty-one years squandered! So it seemed.
But I don’t feel that way now.
Those 21 years were a gift for growth in many areas. To realize the pros and cons of this era, its mistakes and opportunities, is in itself a tremendous grace since I’ve been given even more years to profit from this understanding.
It’s not surprising that my children should start to be concerned about their mother’s future. Like so many parents in my age group, our children do not live geographically close. Difficult questions are raised about where the aging parent is to live, what kind of home is sustainable, proximity to family and adequate health care, etc., etc.
The temptation for me is to angst over these questions: should I start to look for another home? What about my local friends and ministry? To what extent would I be able to start over somewhere else? Timely as these questions may be, I find a metaphor in today’s eclipse of the sun, occurring as I write. Is this the time of my eclipse? Are God and circumstances preparing me for my final disappearance?
But other saving thoughts are soon woven among those shabby threads, dissipating my concerns.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?. . .
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Matthew 6)
Planning and prudence are certainly necessary. But a healthy dose of Trust is better than all the pharmaceuticals flooding the market of our death-fearing culture. For me, thanks to Christ, the stage I’m in now is only a partial eclipse.