Living This Season

Some years ago I wrote a book about wise decision making, Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way. I had led many workshops on this important subject, and, of course, the book brought more invitations.

I am still privileged to join with others and explore this topic, this “sacred art of finding your way.” In fact, I just finished a series of meetings with a thoughtful group from a local church. Together we talked about opening to God’s guidance and becoming attentive to our lives. Together we looked at the steps we take to live out our decisions.

This group, however, offered unique situations to consider. Perhaps their workshop should have been called Decision Making 201 because many of their stories brought especially difficult and complex situations for us to consider. This was an advanced class!

What made this class different? Most participants were within the “older adult” season of life. Many had retired, and some had moved to a retirement community. The decisions they faced reflected this chapter of their lives.

We were looking at decisions of relinquishment (deciding to let go of something) and experiences of diminishment (it’s gone – even if we haven’t let it go). For example, retirement from a job can mean relinquishing, not only a paycheck, but also an important part of one’s identity. “Who am I now?” wonders the physician or teacher or – . We may need to let of of possessions, activities, even a beloved home, knowing that we simply can’t continue as we were. And most likely, we have experienced diminished strength or stamina – or hearing. I remember my mother’s grief when she could no longer sing in the church choir.

Our culture values accomplishments and growth. It values taking on new activities and expanding our worlds. In this season, we are out of step with the world around us. What does it mean to live a full, rewarding life while in a time of letting go?

I, too, am in this older adult chapter of life. I haven’t moved to a retirement community, but I’m aware of physical diminishments and the need to let go of some activities and possessions. I’m also asking the question “How does the Spirit invite me to live fully and continue growing now?”

I remember Mary. She was my 97 year old aunt, and I regularly visited her in the nursing home where she lived for 10 years. She glowed with love. She offered friendship to the aides, the hairdresser, the neighbor to whom she gave her newspaper, and to me. She sang old hymns quietly to herself to stave off pain at night, and she enjoyed reading old books. She enjoyed the fresh local strawberries I brought, and loved hearing about my grandchildren. She lived a whole life in half a room! Once she said, “I wonder why I’m still here,” and then she answered her own question. “I’m still here because I’m still learning. I’m still loving.”

Mary had experienced severe pain and loss. She had needed to adjust to a different way of living. She had also found friendship, new interests, and new people to treasure. She had opened to receive blessings within the nursing home chapter of her life. If we, like Mary, want to live fully as older adults, we need to be awake to blessings in our lives. We must choose the spiritual practice of gratitude.

The most important spiritual invitation never changes, no matter what age we are. That is the call to be a loving presence in the world. While there are many ways to live from love, I think there are special ways that an older adult, in the midst of diminishments and relinquishments, is called to give love.

A friend calls it a “hospitality of presence.” It’s the simple gift of being with another, of listening, of sharing stories together, of touching a hand, of being someone who cares. Mary shares her newspaper, John writes notes to old acquaintances, Sharon volunteers for Meals on Wheels and offers a listening ear while delivering dinner.

I challenge all of us to discover more ways to be carriers of love. May we pay attention to the divine Spirit that will show us the need for love and will nudge us to respond with open hearts.

8 thoughts on “Living This Season”

  1. Thanks, Nancy. What I am most taking away from this reading is that the seeming difference between voluntary relinquishment and involuntary diminishment isn’t so great after all, as B=both offer the same (hard) invitation to let go into whatever has come to us now. In some ways, I fear such an invitation and in others, I look forward to what the Spirit will offer me as I determine to let go….Words so easy to write and difficult to learn to live, as I know from an experience a few years ago. Your words remind me of your teaching about kenosis, years ago, which also have resonated over and over in the time sense.

    1. Dear Ann,
      Yes, I agree that the effect of relinquishment and diminishment is similar. With both there is a grief. And the invitation to grow into this season of life can still be a challenge! Aging gracefully needs as much attentive consideration as any other season of living. I appreciate your insights.

    1. Thank you, Anne. The ministry of “hospitality of presence” is a simple and foundational way of being—and yet it is foundational to respecting and honoring others. It blesses those who receive, and I think it blesses those who give.

  2. I loved this post more than I can say. My elderly aunt suffered a major stroke and has been in a nursing home since. For the first time, I noticed her faith was faltering. She was angry to be in a nursing home, imprisoned in a body that didn’t work, when her husband and friends had already passed on. She told me, “I was asking God why. Then I realized that was the wrong question. The question was what. What I ought to be doing now?”

    1. Dear Melissa,
      How wise your aunt is! Thank you for writing about her and sharing the story. We all need her wisdom.

  3. Most of us feel so helpless as certain world events seem to be spinning out of control. Your suggestion of finding ways to reach out to one another is a good one, Nancy. I like to think that every loving, kind act performed sends a ripple of healing energy into this hurting world.

    1. Thank you for writing Laurie. I agree that so much seems out of control and we can feel helpless to do anything. Like you, I hold on to my hope that the small steps I can do will spread healing energy!

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