The last few weeks of my life have been a time of reflection. I spent a week down in Virginia to visit my mother who had some health issues and ended up in the hospital. When you consider that she is 87 years old this should not have been a shock to me. Throw in the aspect that my dad is closing in on 90, there is a reason for our family to not be used to dealing with the fact that we are entering the season where health, life, and death are daily concerns.
For the most part, my parents have been relatively healthy. For the past 20 years, they have been living with my sister Linda and my brother-in-law Albert. Linda has been the principal caregiver for them during this time. I can never repay my sister for the commitment she has made to our parents. There is no doubt that Linda has lived close to the fire and probably has been forced to recognize the signs of this “season” much sooner than I have had to.
There is a difference between recognizing the signs and accepting them as a reality in our lives. It is clear I am not ready on any level with accepting that I am forced to deal with this looming “season” in my life. I can only truly speak for myself… I have been living in denial.
The reality is that my parents are still here. For that I am grateful. It is a gift that God has given my brother and sister. I want them to live for as long as possible.
For me, having my parents still here is the reason that has kept me from acknowledging that I am getting older. This “season” isn’t just about my parents entering the last chapters of their life, but rather the recognizing that we as their children are getting old ourselves.
Life is changing.
Life is rushing by… we are checking off days like they are insignificant and of no value. One more day towards the weekend. One more day closer to vacation or retirement. Then suddenly you find yourself sitting next to your mother and you find yourself thinking that when you leave in a few days to get back to the “rushing” this could be the last time you have a conversation with the woman who gave you life.
Life doesn’t seem fair when you are forced to deal with such things.
As I pulled out of the parking lot of the hospital to start to drive a long 10-hour trip back to the “rushing,” it gave me time to reflect. I drove for the first five hours or so with the radio off.
I drove in silence.
Silence… shutting out the noise of life.
Here’s a quick fact for you: more than 30 million people in the United States are exposed to harmful sound levels on a regular basis. This doesn’t just lead to hearing loss, but sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and anxiety. Too much noise is not good for our health. But, even worse, it’s not good for our peace of mind.
Unfortunately, silence isn’t always golden. It can be torture, or at the very least, uncomfortable, and it forces to think about things that you have been avoiding.
Silence forces us to stop working, stop doing and, above all, stop and face ourselves in the mirror. I don’t know about you but spending time with myself is no picnic. That’s why TV was invented.
But, as difficult as it may be, silence is also the space where you find peace and stillness, and if you get good at it, wisdom. The answers to all our questions are there in the silence. And not just big and bold, “why am I here?” questions, but everyday stuff, like “what am I ignoring? Putting too much attention on? Attracting into my life?” questions.
Not to mention the dreaded questions of sojourning life during and after this “season.”
Nothing is too big or small for silence to answer.
There’s no way we can spin certain things that happen as we get older. Feet that never stop hurting. Real sleep is a rare commodity. Bad hearing. Oddly flowing urine (too much information? Sorry, not sorry). Hair growing in odd places… especially ear hair. Embarrassing pauses in speech. It’s downright inconvenient. And, of course, there’s nothing funny about losing a parent or a spouse. Nothing funny about having you or a family member face a life-threatening illness. The fact is, we could fill volumes on all the challenging ways we get older or all the things we can no longer do.
Life is rushing by.
But, I’m looking to do something different.
I’m looking to lighten up my life, in spite of my circumstances, however overwhelming they may be. I want that for my brother and sister too. In realty, I want this for anyone who may be reading this. We all can begin by injecting a new brand of optimism into our blood.
I want to live life in this season of life.
This will not be in denial. Or avoidance. Living life in this season isn’t about putting on rose-colored glasses, holding hands and wishing on a rainbow that our skin would suddenly tighten up and not sag so much.
We can sing Kumbaya all we want and we’re still going to end up one day with our kids asking for our license because we are not safe to drive anymore, regardless of our self-conceived confidence in our driving ability.
It’s not if, it’s when.
And let me be the first to break the news: somewhere out there in the middle of space, probably a thousand light-years away, asteroids are ricocheting off of stars at 17,000 miles per hour. And, should one of these make an untimely left turn at just the right spot, there is a centillion-to-one chance that it could end up crashing on your front porch. It’s unlikely that any amount of positive thinking will change that. But, don’t worry. I’m betting the asteroid will miss us. We should still take care of ourselves health wise and plan for the long haul.
The fact is, living life in these changing seasons, isn’t about changing the world or redirecting the planets so they align with our personal wishes.
And living life in these changing seasons is also not about pretending to feel good when you don’t, or saying you’re happy when you’re obviously miserable. Living in this season means that we don’t bury our head in the sand and pretends that life is a stroll down Main Street at Disneyland.
Living life in these changing seasons is about being vulnerable enough to acknowledge that life sometimes hurts. And our job is not to ignore the suffering, but to transcend it.
Living life in this season is about focusing on what we have, not what we lack, and seeing what is, instead of what is not. It is a cultivation of gratitude that allows us to appreciate whatever falls on our plate.
Even if that means dealing with the mortality of your parents.
And when it really, really, really comes down to it… living life in this season is about living as if everything in our world is here to point us toward some deep secret that will change our world.
It’s about living as if every moment and experience has something to teach us, empower us, and free us. Even—and especially—the hard parts of life.
We can still face our challenges head on, and always knowing that when we say we need to live in this season, what we really mean is that we need to bring light and meaning to things that were once dark and meaningless.
And, that my friends, will be the secret sauce to a life well lived in the changing seasons of life.