“GOD put me on Earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I will never die.” – From a t-shirt
Exactly nine months after my dad came home from WWII on Dec. 31, 1945, I left the comfort of my mother’s womb. I received God’s gift of Grace through Baptism on Dec. 5, 1946. From the waters first pouring, to my dying day, the waters of my Baptism continue to wash and nourish me, form and define my life in Christ, and challenge me to live faithfully in response to all God has done. My life started and will end in the waters of Baptism.
As my life unfolded, I wondered where God would lead me in the future. During each stage of my life, I focused on the future, and found it hard to imagine myself beyond the next stage.
At 77 years, I find myself with more and more past, and less and less future. As I grow older, I find my memories of each stage are put in perspective and have become a source of strength, inspiration and insight: especially the gift of 56 years with my beloved soulmate, Larry: a gift from God that made me wiser.
Most people find beginnings easier than endings. As I move closer to the day I die and journey into eternal life, I find comfort knowing Jesus Christ was with me as my life began, journeyed with me through my past, is with me in my present and will journey with me into eternal life.
Secular society looks at aging as decline: a descent into nonexistence. Pope Francis describes aging very differently: “The elderly are the historical memory of every community, a patrimony of wisdom and faith that needs to be heard, cared for and valued…they have wisdom, life’s wisdom, history’s wisdom, the homeland’s wisdom, the family’s wisdom. And we need all of this!”
As I continue to mourn Larry’s death, the hardest part of being an old widow is my temptation to also mourn my aging and retreat into myself. Yet God constantly reminds me to stay involved. God calls us in different ways at different times in our lives. As I continue to redefine my life after Larry, and despite my limitations from aging, God remains active in my life as a faithful elder calling me daily to: continue learning; be a compassionate healing presence in the lives of God’s diverse family, especially the most vulnerable; and share my gift of wisdom from my well-taught life.
Everyone is speeding forward in time and age. The past shapes who we are. Yet we cannot dwell in our past. God has given us the gift of living in the present, and only He knows the future.
J.A.P. Walton said, “Entering our older years is…A victorious yielding of what was and what is, to what will always be. Aging is not descent, but an advent.”
May our aging be an advent as we ask God for the grace to share the wisdom of our past, live in the present, and look to the future with hope. May we know that Jesus Christ was with us from our beginning, journeyed with us through our past, is with us now in our present, and is our hope in our life to come.
• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. She writes to honor Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable. Larry wrote for “Living and Growing for almost three decades. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.