On, or is it moving out, when the ageing thing becomes inescapable? Out of the frame, out of the habit and time zone which has defined who we are when we were working? Out of the way too in which we define ourselves to ourselves, and as we appear to others, and how in turn we relate to them. A pessimist (which is a bit of what I am) might describe the last years of life as a process of erosion; certainly physically and mentally. Our three year old grandson, staying with us for the last three weeks, looked at my daily intake of pills and wanted to know which one was for what. Trying to explain was a bit like tracing my medical history over the last twenty years. Nostalgic for me (a few of the memories unwelcome ones), though sparing him the details of how the medics have kept me going. But not just health, loss in other ways as well.
For sixty years I have been some sort of preacher, leading worship in mostly Methodist churches and having some role in leading the Church. When I was working full time it meant producing material for public worship twice or sometime three times every Sunday.
Thinking about ‘next Sunday’ early in the week, it was often only until Saturday that things got sorted out and I was in a reasonable state to meet and hopefully be of use to my congregations the next day. After I retired I preached much less often. Although I had time to prepare and polish material, I found it increasingly difficult to deliver the result. So, after saying often to my family ‘it’s time I gave this up’, I have finally turned the vaague intention into a firm decision.
In some ways it’s a relief- one of the things I don’t have to worry about any more. But it is a loss as well. Many people when they retire can say, ‘that’s it’, whereas priests and parsons who are ordained for life, hang on to some bits of the job and never quite let go.
It must be true of other professions too. I realise that apart from the need to make evident what my life has been about, there have been other factors involved in continuing to stand up before congregations and articulating and examining faith. Mostly I suppose its been about status, and the fear of losing out on what shouldn’t be of such prime importance anyway. The scary thought has been ‘what’s left of me without it?’
There must be lots of answers to that and I only use this small personal experience of what I am giving up as we all get older. There are many others. If what’s left becomes more valuable it needs to be cherished and new ways to define ourselves discovered. (…if I’ve given up the trade, the preaching habit goes on!)