I am getting old. I have been getting older every second since I was born, but now, I am getting old. I have become increasingly aware of this since returning to Portland and coming to the parish, yet the creeping awareness has nothing to do with my being here. The work is not any harder and the hours are not any longer than before. My age sensitivity is not caused by some external factor or circumstance. It is just the natural order of things: we get old. Old people were always “other people” to me. Now, they are beginning to be me!
While my father was alive, I knew that I was almost exactly 25 years younger than he, and that was my safety net. But he died a year and one-half ago, and now I am only 23_ years younger than he. That weighs on me. And there are other factors.
I work with a staff on which I am the senior member. That has never been true before. There are not many children around. There always had been. My doctor says the aches and pains so new to my too, too solid flesh are due to degeneration. He laughed. I did not. I received a list of my grade school classmates recently because of our upcoming reunion. I was shocked to discover that almost a quarter of them have died.
As all the above truths collide, I am forced into the realization that I am growing old. I don’t accept it, I just realize it. I realize that young people see me the same way I saw people my age when I was their ages. I realize I cannot do some of the physical things I used to do, at least not without painful consequences. I look in the mirror and see my father. I forget words. I forget things. I forget where I put my keys, but I’ve been doing that all my life!
I’m stumbling through the first four stages of grief: denial (check), anger (a bit), bargaining (I think I’ll be skipping this one—I know better), and depression. Acceptance is the only stage remaining before I complete that cycle.
We are in Lent, and we focus on Gospel passages in which Jesus tells his disciples about his impending death. We contemplate the end of our lives, at least lif e as we have known it. Jesus was pretty matter of fact about the end of His life, or at least the evangelists portray him that way, yet His time in the garden that final night does suggest his own conflict: “Let this cup pass…”
It might be 23_ years away, but the end of life as I know and love it is now more real to me than ever before. When I compare my insides with my peers’ outsides, they seem to be handling the whole thing a lot better than I am. So I know it’s time to grow up, to say, “not my will but Yours be done.”
Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice: His body and His blood given to all to rid the world of sin, of separation. Is that what I need to do in order to accept the ultimate truth of life? Is it in giving my body and my blood as pastor that I will escape morbidity and enter into eternal life? If so, come on Easter!