Faith Is Not A Crutch For Living
Old age is often a synonym for ‘problem people’ - a liability to the optimism of our Brave New World. People fear the mortality of old age. But that's nothing new. The Irish poet, W B Yeats, who felt old from the age of forty, went kicking and screaming into old age.
‘What shall I do with this absurdity,
O heart, O troubled heart - this caricature,
Decrepit age which has been tied to me as to a dog's tail?' - he asked.
Not a great advert for senior citizenship then, is it?
But whenever I spoke with my friend Sarah I quickly had a rather un-Yeats like version of old age. She kept control of all her faculties to the very end of her life. You needed to be very careful what you whispered to anyone if you were sitting close to her. And a matter of hours before she died, even though she could no longer talk, I vividly recall her bearing down with her jaw, determined not to let anyone remove her false teeth.
And she's not alone. Britain has a veritable 'Methuselan' roll call of people who have accomplished great things in their advancing years. Like Elizabeth Scofield: At 84, and with an 80% mark, she became 'top girl' in her Reading and Writing Course. Or take Percy and Florence Arrow-Smith, married for 80 years. They hold the world record for the longest marriage. Sadly, Percy died a few weeks after their anniversary. But he was the quintessential model of dignity and marital endurance.
Old age still has a lot to say to us in life, as much as in death. It was only a little more than a few years ago that Pope John Paul brought the world to a standstill, pulling princes, politicians, and the public into his vulnerability and death.
We need models of how to live. But we also need to know how to finish well. Each of us has a responsibility to help our elderly finish with dignity and reverence. So beyond pension schemes and Meals on Wheels, respect and honour will go a long way in helping to achieve it.
Finishing well must be numbered amongst the great virtues of faith. Faith is not a crutch for living. It's a springboard, which takes us beyond death. For Christians, it is faith in the living Christ, which best prepares us to finish well.If you're a young person reading this blog, please don't discount the infinite rewards of investing a few hours a week simply sharing thoughts with a senior person. You'll be amazed by how much they actually understand you! And if you're a person who already has a bit of snow on your roof, but still lots of fire in your furnace, there's plenty to be learned about a life to come.