Some time back I wrote about life as an adventure. There’s more. As a healthy, vibrant man in his seventy-fifth year, I recognize two things. One is that I have five or ten years of vibrantly active healthy life ahead of me, but probably not more. After that, things are likely to slow down quite a bit. The other is that life is to be lived to its fullest, as one is able to live it to its fullest. That means different things to different people depending on their condition in life, but living to the fullest as one is able remains the goal.
Years pass quickly, as Facebook reminds me by suggesting photos from the past it thinks I’ll enjoy seeing. They are often about about something from four or five years ago that, in my memory, happened last year. How is it possible that four or five years could have passed? If they have gone by so quickly, what about the next five or ten years? How fast will they go? No slower, that’s for sure. It gives added importance to treasuring yesterday, loving today for all it’s worth, and looking forward to tomorrow without trying to live into it before it gets here.
Of course, five or ten more years of active life is not guaranteed. Anything can happen, and often does. That’s part of what makes it an adventure. But let’s assume good health and good fortune. Hanging around with friends both younger and older, it’s fairly obvious I am not up to the the same things I was five or ten years ago. I can still do most of them, just with a bit less endurance and agility. Mid 70s is not old, it’s well seasoned. By the mid 80s, age has a way of slowing things down enough that being vibrantly active takes on a different character. It’s not that life ceases to be an adventure, it’s just that some forms of it become less urgently desired than they once were, and new forms of adventure bring pleasant enjoyment. The point is to launch into the future with joyful anticipation of what lies ahead and some kind of flexible plan for it. We enjoy travel, so our plans are to visit new places we have always wondered about, revisit others that have special meaning for us, and embrace whatever opportunities those places present. It also means not lamenting the places we haven’t seen, or the disappointments we may experience along the way.
I’m too old to be a Baby Boomer, but with many of them finally coming of age there has been a glut of articles about the trials and opportunities of one’s “senior years”, and about Boomers doing anything they can to preserve the illusion of youth while denying their mortality. Death, that’s what they mean when they say mortality, is an uncomfortable subject for some people. It doesn’t have to be. I recall the visits we made with my parents in the last decade of their lives. Each visit was littered with names of friends who had died, names not shared with with sadness, but with contented memories of the good times they had shared together. I imagine the same will be happening to us before long. I suppose what makes the difference for some of us is our Christian faith. Firm in the conviction that we are already living into our resurrection life, we have no fear of death, nor are we eager to pass through its gates. When it comes, it comes. That’s life. No pun intended. It really is life.
Not everyone buys that. I’m a priest, they note. I’m expected to talk about God, but not to be taken seriously. The silly idea that there is a God, and the naive faith of so called Christians, is nothing but a fairytale camouflaging the reality of life. So they say. A few acquaintances of my age who have endorsed that view for years are now not so sure. Life as an adventure seems less attractive than it once did. From here on out life is a defensive maneuver against the threat of death, because, for them, the prospect of death reveals the futility of all they have done and accomplished. However enjoyable it was, it is past, gone, and adds up to nothing. A few have begun to ask the difficult questions about the God whom they have dismissed, wondering if, perhaps, they have been mistaken. My response? Yes, you have been mistaken, so let’s talk. Life is still an adventure, and we have many places to go and things to do. Come along.