Co-written by John Simon and Ron deVries
Recently, I had a conversation with a 92-year old man. Let’s call him Bill (not his real name). Bill was astonished at his life. He didn’t expect to break into the nonagenarian years, as his relatives had never made it past their 80’s. Ten years ago, he had moved to a small retirement community after decades in the workforce. He made golf his full time job, and his golf buddies became his community. Life was simple and the Arizona sun was warm. But Bill didn’t enjoy the fruits of his labor for long. Bill’s nineties have taken his strength from him, and with that, his ability to stay put on the golf course. Now, without his new vocation and the community it came with, Bill is forced to truly reflect on the years he’s accumulated. The difference is, now he’s doing it alone.
Another thing I forgot to mention: Bill is on hospice care. That’s the primary source of our connection, since I’m his chaplain. His days are numbered. And Bill is angry– angry that he can hardly walk anymore, angry that his independence is a thing of the past. Bill has at least one human soul to hold his hand as things continue to worsen for him. But his story is far from a shining example of what it should be to grow old and die.
It’s sobering to think that each end of the age spectrum is terribly vulnerable. Infants need care, constant care. Try as they might, they are completely unable to care for themselves. On the flip side, many elders find old age to be an extraordinarily humbling experience. Everyday activities like walking around, feeding oneself, and even hygiene become impossible to do alone. As countless elderly men and women navigate end of life care, they tend to find themselves overwhelmed by what they can’t do.
I’m a big fan of Bill. He can be a grumpy guy at times, but I’m not mad at him for it. Frankly, and maybe a bit selfishly, I just wish that he had a church family to do my job for me. To hold his hand. To take his wife out for coffee and let her cry. To point them to promises of “all things new” on the other side.
It makes me wonder if one of the unsung treasures of the Church was the idea that life is best lived together. All of life. Not just when we’re happy, wealthy, and energized. Not just bouncing babies in their playpens, or old men on their golf courses. All of life. Especially those treacherous years when we find ourselves deeply in need of a gentle hand, a kind word, and a blessing.
In Hebrews 10, there is a moment the writer instills a “Call” to all members of the body to “persevere in faith”. A heart of “service” is encouraged in the verses 23-25 where it says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Bill is one of those we want to spur on, to encourage and care for. Maybe not unlike those we may not get along with or even those who cause us pain. Young and old alike, may we walk with all in grace and model servant leadership. Much like our Saviour did not long ago.
- How are you walking in Grace with members of your congregation?
- How might learning to Listen well model hospitality and honour to those of all ages in our churches?
- How can you walk Faithfully with the staff who work in your churches?