A recurring subject of conversation this week has been the unrelentingly swift passage of time, and the changes brought with it. We've reached summer's halfway point, among other things.
On Monday Patty and I met in Walnut, Iowa, (halfway between my home in Des Moines and Patty's home in Omaha) for some "face time"--and ended up talking at length about the changes that come with aging. How to let go, how to adjust, how to accept what comes?
In a similar vein, Kay and I sat in my living room on Tuesday afternoon and talked about how much we've changed in our nearly thirty years of friendship. She tried to explain to me what's happening with Josh, her son, and his job. She shared what details she could remember, then gave up. We think it's all going to work out, we decided. Even as recently as ten years ago, we would have had to talk it through until we both understood it fully before we could move on.
[One of my current jokes when I get stuck in conversation is, "Would you please change the subject and rescue me from myself?" Sometimes I can't recall words, and sometimes I can't recall details. Or I can no longer put them in chronological order. ]
That afternoon, the current issue of Weavings Journal arrived in my mailbox. Weavings is a little magazine on the Christian Spiritual Life, published by Upper Room. For many years, it's been a companion to me on my spiritual journey.
The theme this month is "Maturity" and two articles caught my attention. E. Glenn Hinson wrote about how hard it is to let go. He's actually doing it:
Packing up ninety boxes of books I had spent fifty years collecting to send to Zimbabwe to help a new seminary was wrenching. Some of those books ceased long ago to be impersonal properties that I could dispense with, without feeling. They had become intimate friends. I had spent hours with them, questioning and underlining and making indexes of important ideas and essential information to which I would return often.My Books, as we speak.
Letting go is hard. It takes some wrestling with your deepest self, the one that lies hidden under a whole layer of external, public selves, to let go.
And though I haven't been writing here, I have been writing my story on Renewal for our Christ Renews His Parish team. It's ready, and I will share that tomorrow. It isn't so much that I haven't had time for the blog, as that I haven't had any extra space in my brain. It's been crammed with too many thoughts. I also wrote a lot of the novel on the trip to Minnesota over the 4th.
The other thing that's got me in its grip right now is my family history. I'm particularly taken, once again, with exploring my dad's mother's family, and am intrigued with Great Aunt Julia. Aunt Julia is an aunt my dad never knew. She died before he was born. Her story is a sad one. She was my grandmother's oldest sister, and helped to rear Grandma after their mother died in 1894.
Julia married in 1893 at age seventeen, and had a son, Marven, the following year. Then she had a daughter, Sultania, or Ella (depending on what records you read) and her husband, Tom Hasty, died. Julia then married David Wiley Wright, and her small daughter died. Julia and David had three more daughters, and then she died in 1907 at the age of twenty-nine.
It breaks my heart that she died so young, and in poverty. And also that she left so many children behind. David Wright remarried and in December 1907 Julia's son, Marven, traveled with my grandmother's family to Oklahoma. Also, in the 1910 Census, Marven was once again living with David Wright in Missouri. I felt relieved to find that. I wish we had all of those stories! Even as I reflect on the little that I know of their lives, I realize that many people of that era had similar stories.
In Weavings this week, I also read Marilyn McEntyre's article, "Claiming the Role of Elder" in which she writes of "recognizing long life as a calling." Obviously, and especially compared to Great Aunt Julia, I am called to a long life. So far, at least!
McEntyre invites us to reflect on the virtues of age: " refusal to be trivialized; courage to relinquish what must be laid down, to speak what the younger generation needs to hear, to look squarely at death and approach it without impatience or fear."
She also suggests what questions we need to ask as we age: "What am I called to in the final chapters of earthly life? What gifts can I bring to my community if infirmites overtake me and I require others' care? How might my faith become a source of vitality, patience, and hope as I age?"
In another discussion Linda and I had on her deck Thursday afternoon, we spoke of legacy. . .the legacies others have left, and what ours might be. McEntire also addresses this in the article when she says that we are are to "reconsider what to hope for in the last season of life" and that "What the old have to teach must be taught by patience, generosity toward the young, humility, and finally hope that reaches beyond earthly things. Only by consenting to dependence on God and others, to the clear need for forgiveness, to the opportunity to model the virtues age calls for can the old impart their final gifts to the young, who need them."
As we age, we can assume that we continue to be here for a reason. The young need our gifts. And the world needs them. It only makes sense that for as much time as we are given, in whatever capacity we find ourselves, we must continue to pour all the energy and imagination we have into others; into leaving the world a better place than we found it.