One of the realities of being a pastor in an aging church is being confronted with all of the complications that come with growing old.
Yesterday, I had to tell a woman that she would likely never return to her home again. She has reached the point in life that she really can’t care for herself, and for a variety of reasons that I can’t talk about, she has no options other than some form of long term care. In most cases, there would be family to help with this transition, but in this case the only family is her church, and so the task fell upon the leader of the family (me!) to tell her the options.
She wasn’t happy. “My life is over,” she cried. “I’m not happy about this at all!” This isn’t fair!!!”
It isn’t fair, and we told her so. The movement from adult independence to childlike dependence can be cruel and harsh, a glaring reminder that death is staring us in the face and there isn’t much we can do about it.
I once sat at the bedside of another church member in a nursing home. Ms. Guy was in her nineties, blind, and pretty much confined to bed, but her mind was still as sharp as a tack. We were talking about the struggles of her condition when she said something that I have never forgotten and often share with my struggling elderly folks:
“Golden years my butt!”
The fact is that the latter years of life are more tarnished than golden. The spirit may be willing, but the body won’t cooperate. When your schedule revolves around doctors appointments, life can easily lose it’s wonder and zest.
And yet, it is a reality of life. All of us grow old. All of us experience limitations in what we can do. All of us will likely face the day when someone will want to take away the care keys and tell us that we can no longer live as we want to.
The difference between making that transition with grace or horror is being prepared, knowing what is coming, and recognizing that it is simply another of a long list of transitions we have made in this life. It is an acceptance that life as God has given us is a gift, and every season can be filled with wonder and beauty.
It isn’t easy. It may be the hardest thing we ever do.
But the “golden years” are coming . . . to all of us.