The Joys and Challenges of Ageing (1)

The Joys and Challenges of Ageing (1)

Autumn is a poignant reminder of Ageing. Leaves float to the ground, crunching under foot as we walk; swirling russet reds, burnt orange, gleaming gold and plain, retiring brown. Autumn reminds us we are human, that our lives are like the seasons: “Turn, turn, turn,” sing the Seekers. “A time to be born and a time to die.”

Looking around our congregation we see grey heads, many of them. We are ageing, sharing our wisdom and experience of the years, telling our stories of days long gone, rich in memory if only we can catch and hold them. They fly in and out, fragile like butterfly wings flashing past in the fading light of day. Precious days, these Autumn days. Cool, sunny and unpredictable.

In worship we do as Jesus invited, “Come and see.” Sacred space corrals the comfort and warmth of long- time friends; here the hymns and prayers and faithfulness float gently as autumn leaves. Bright sunshine peeps through the windows, casting light upon the shadows.

Some of us are still “grey nomads,” roaming the world with precarious hope and expectation. Travel made easy with the help of guides and comfortable transport. But “watch your step.” Cobble stones and shipboard swell threatens balance and confidence. Hang on. Local travel over familiar ground restores those bygone days. We’ve been here before, in the Flinders, on the Reef, under sun-burnt skies, beside Wallace’s Hut in the high Alpine mountains.

Photos galore have mounted up, storing lifetimes of exploration, of friendships and love, of friends now departed. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken, there’s a pain goes on and on. Empty chairs at empty tables now my friends are dead and gone.” [Les Mis] That’s the pain, the awful downside of ageing. Our friends are dying, our links with the past now threaded as pearls on a chain.

Ageing resembles an overflowing drawer stuffed full of creased belongings, all unique and clean as a whistle if we can discern them through our contact lenses. Which way does that T-shirt go?

Grandchildren and ‘greats’ are a joy and breath of fresh air. They come and they go in the rhythm of life, ‘midst social whirlwinds and study commitments. “Will you be home tonight? Can I come over? It’s 5pm and ……. of course we’ll be home!

“Tell us how it was,” they ask, and “what was life when……” They listen, devour roast lamb and baked potatoes or perhaps a lasagna; that’s fine dining for us. Gone are the days of competing, of cleaning the silver to a shining gleam. It’s “take us as you find us.” Not seeing dust on the shelf, grandies want a hug, a listening ear, unconditional love and lots of laughter; life for them can be insecure, become too serious, too sad. Relationships matter but sometimes they crack with the brittleness of life and wounds need loving. Compassion heals. “Let me hear your news; your travel plans, your latest faux pas, your interview, your wedding plans.”

Through autumn haze we remember; remember the nappies we changed, the models we made, the cookies we baked, the Lego we built, the stories we read. We could sit on the floor then – and get up! We could dance and skip, play hidey and roll play doh. “Arthur-it is” was a distant friend.

So, we’re up and about still today, attending the soccer and basketball finals and going for walks in nearby parks. We’re meeting with friends when we look at our diaries, we’re listening to stories and telling them too. Life’s gear becomes slower, things take longer but then there’s space to reflect, rejoice and to ponder.
Names won’t come, aches won’t go but life goes on, for now. It’s sad and it’s fun and still full of hope. We’ve buckets of gratitude and heaps to celebrate as the leaves float gently down.