by Judith Barcroft
Age 72. Fire Island, NY
I am sitting at our old wooden dining table at Fire Island. My husband has gone back to the city and I decided to stay out here for the quiet, the peace, the solitude. “To be still” from the Latin “to vacate” . At my age I need my naps and sabbaths.
I am what the Church of Heavenly Rest has taken to calling the “third age.” Apparently, it is the end of my season, my purpose, too, if the third age is another way of saying “the final stage,” the autumn of one’s years.
ONE’S SPIRITUAL LIFE BEGINS ON ANY DAY, AT ANY HOUR, REDEEMING THE PAST, SANCTIFYING THE PRESENT, BRIGHTENING THE FUTURE.
I do not look the way I looked as a young actress. There is grey in my long blonde hair, and I shouldn’t wear it down anymore, because, according to Joan Rivers, if some guy were following me because of my long blonde hair, and I turned around, they would scream! Passersby see right through me. I cannot depend on youth, or beauty, fame, or fortune. I’ve got to face it, I’m an “old lady”. Saint Paul says , “While the outside is wasting away, the inside is being built up.” (I wish the outside would waste away a little more.) If I can’t depend on my outward self, I’d better start listening to my inward self, hopefully a God-dwelling place. That is why David Brooks’ phrase ,”a bucket list for the soul”, so intrigues me. There is a prayer I like which says something to the effect that one’s spiritual life begins on any day, at any hour, redeeming the past, sanctifying the present, brightening the future. Spiritual growth and wisdom are part of aging for me. The nearer I get to an age where death might be appropriate(my mother died at my age), the more protective I get of my soul, the more I search for definition and purpose.
My husband has been planning his funeral service. He wants lots of Southern hymns, white flowers, and no eulogy. His request is food for thought, because in contrast, I would love a eulogy! I want Bach cello, white flowers, and praise for my talents in theater and art, for my creative and spiritual depth, for being a wonderful wife , mother, and grandmother, for my hospitality, cooking, teaching, mentoring, healing, listening; Ah! She “honored God with her substance and was a faithful steward of His bounty”.
I think we often need to build up a little graven image of ourselves, full of glory and honors, fame and compliments, a false idol, with our autographs and photos all over it, our names and credits in every ego-boosting tweet and twitter.
SOMETIMES GOD JUST ASKS YOU TO SIT IN THE GARDEN AND WAIT, WAIT IN THE WILDERNESS WITH NO SPECTACULAR EVENT
A eulogy can be a graven image. And I would like not to need one. But that would require humility.
I have heard that a clown’s white face symbolizes death to self. Perhaps getting older is a process of, not only cleaning house, getting rid of all that “moth and rust consume”, but also of emptying oneself; as I become less, God can become more.
In the movie, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, the Johnny Depp character is asked what he wants to be, and he answers that he just wants to be a good person. So simple. So humble. So I can feel a chang in my purpose and ambition. Sometimes God just asks you to sit in the garden (or at Fire Island), and wait, wait in the wilderness with no spectacular spiritual event, no light on the road to Damascus, no new book, or Broadway show, no works to bring success or captivate an audience, no title, but rather to wait, with no attachment to the outcome. “I will take you into the desert and there I will speak to you in the depths of your heart”(Hosea). To wait in prayer without ceasing, in the divinity of silence. Grace. Purpose in Humility.
So I would put “humility” on my moral bucket list,
A EULOGY CAN BE A GRAVEN IMAGE. AND I WOULD LIKE TO NOT NEED ONE.
in hopes that my soul won’t need to be puffed up with my eulogy; so I can depart this life and enter the next dimension with the simple words from the Book of Common Prayer: ” I know that my redeemer liveth” and that hopefully I come to God, “and not as a stranger”.