It has been almost two months since I last posted. After writing about 100 blogs over a three-year span, I believe I had run out of things to say, and I didn’t want to keep re-writing the same stories and themes. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone would want to read this blog . . . there is no shortage of professional on-line, and easily-accessed, opines, blogs, and stories.
In the past 3 months, I have devoted most of my reading time to business management books. Management is a fascinating topic to me, but not to most people. And, it doesn’t fit into a hospice blog.
But this morning as I read a few pages of Billy Graham’s new book, I stumbled across some thoughts worth sharing. I’ve been wrangling over my own aging. After turning the 40th year in 2010, I began to feel more lumbago, reflux disease, and knee pain than I had before. The back pain wouldn’t go away after a good night sleep anymore. When I woke, it was still my companion.
Ailing thoughts naturally lead me to contemplate of my finite life, and the someday coming of death. And here is where Rev. Graham has some nuggets for me. He begins chapter 5 with a description of what it feels like physically to grow old. In his case, at 92, weakness is his burden. He can’t get out of a chair by himself, and holding a conversation for more than an hour is difficult.
Then he talks about the human passion for immortality, which he sees in history when the great Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, searched the globe for the Fountain of Youth. He sees it also in modernity. In Florida, a plastic surgeon named his practice the Fountain of Youth Institute.
Graham points out what he calls “obsessive contradictions: the young want to be rewarded with big jobs without obtaining experience, the middle-aged brag about working out at the gym, but can’t wait to retire in order to rest, and the old want to drink from the fountain of youth.” The swami, Solomon of old, wrote that the glory of young men is their strength, and the glory of old men is their grey head (my paraphrase of Proverbs 20). But whether we are old or young, we long for what the other has. Obsessive contradictions indeed.
Whether we like it or not, we are like grass that springs up in the morning and is sun-withered by nightfall. The Psalmist says that the Creator sweeps men away in the sleep of death. A week ago today, my mother’s sister, in her early 70′s I think, and suffering from ALS, went to bed lying next to her husband of 52 years, and never woke again in this life.
Have you ever heard stories of young people dying well? It is a step for us to see youth cut-off and be able to say that we humans are not owed anything, not the next day, not even the next breath. But if you are like me, you cannot easily accept that truth. You obligate God to give you so many days on this earth, to not rob young people of the years owed to them, and to not suffer loved ones with the loss of parents, children, brother, sisters, and friends.
Our Creator doesn’t give us what we want in this regard. But He does promise something else:
I am the bread of life. I am living water. If you drink it you will never thirst again. I am the resurrection and life, He who believes in me will never die, but have eternal life. I am the way. I am the good shepherd. My sheep hear my voice and come to me because they know my voice. I am the door. Tell my brothers to meet with me in Galilee. Father, love them with the love which you have for me.
Beyond our comprehension, the Creator, who is completely other, not human, not finite, not us, knowing every one of us intimately, even more so than we know ourselves, has reached into our situation, our life-death conundrum, our desire for immortality, and has given us something greater. That is Himself.