I think it started about the time I turned 50 years of age. I really didn’t “feel” as old as the over-the-hill jokes that came my way implied I should. But I did the math and by no stretch of the imagination could I any longer consider myself “middle-aged”. I don’t personally know anyone who has turned 100 years old, though I know there are a few out there.
But, I certainly did not consider myself as “elderly” either. So what WAS I anyway? Or rather, WHERE was I on this timeline called life? While no one is guaranteed the number of years they will live on this earth, I decided to mentally divide up the years of life into quarters. In order for this to work, I had to make an assumption on the length of my life. So I picked 80 years. After all, the Bible says in Psalm 90:10:
“The length of our days is seventy years-
or eighty, if we have the strength...”
It will be noted that by choosing 80 years as my life span that I made another assumption too: that I would be one of the “strong” ones. If I’m granted any more years than 80, I would just consider it a plus. That’s where assumption number three comes into play. My grandparents and my parents have lived past the octogenarian mark. Surely I will too.
Next I decided to name the four quarters of life by using the names of the seasons. Up to age 20 would be called spring; 21 to 40 would be summer; 41 to 60 would be the autumn season; and 61 to 80 would be the winter of life. The term “elderly” would only apply to those past 80 who could no longer get around and live an active life. My only relative that met this criteria was my grandmother, and that was in her 93rd year.
All this kind of thinking took place about a dozen years ago. During the years since, thankfully I have become less preoccupied with trying to put my life on a timeline and figuring out where I might be. Instead, I have come to understand this with certainty: no matter how many years I might have left on this planet, they surely were fewer than the number of years I have already lived. And so I have been busy trying to live them to the fullest.
The shift in thinking was subtle, but very real. Somewhere along the way I have gained an increasing awareness that life is short no matter how long one might live, and that I wanted to major in the majors.
A lot has happened in my life since the year I turned 50. My kids grew up, went to college, got married, had kids of their own, and now have their own mortgages. My father died, my mother was declared legally blind, and I became a part-time care-giver for her and for a couple of my grandchildren. My empty nest doesn’t seem the least bit empty, I still get up early to make breakfast and see my husband off to work, and my car racks up as many miles as it did when I was a taxi driver for the kids. I’m playing with a life long dream by doing a little writing here and there, and I’m tending to my spiritual life daily. I have peace with God and make time to serve Him by serving others.
Some of my friends don’t approve of my lifestyle. Many of them think I should be living more for myself, whatever that means. Actually in many ways I am living more for myself...I’m doing the things that matter to me the most, even though my energy level obviously can’t compete with what it used to be.
I was talking to an older pastor’s wife a couple of years ago, and her advice was to “run the last lap the best”. And that is what I want to do. I want to live each day intentionally and with the full knowledge that every day is a gift. I want to keep a short account of offenses. I want to leave some kind of legacy that will matter to someone. I can’t assume anything about when my life on earth might end, except that it is inevitable that someday it will. And by my own definition, I am in the winter of my life. I’m OK with that.