THE OLD HAS PASSED AWAY

One of my favorite songs was “My Way”It begins, “And now. the end is near, and I face the final curtain. . . ‘ After 60+ years of preaching, the end has come. . On a warm, April 30th day in 1950 I preached my first sermon on “A Real Christian,” at
the Bethel Presbyterian Church, near Davidson, NC. On November 2,2014 I will give my final sermon at the Amity Presbyterian Church, Dravosburg, Pa on All Saints Day. At age 85 I find myself too unsteady on my feet to stand in the pulpit. It is time to bid adieu. So, cleaned out my sermon files, threw most of them away, and kept a few, in case I might speak from a chair.(ex cathedra). My volunteer time now will be devoted to Hospice and Clergy Against Alzheimer’s and ten grandchildren!

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AFTER THE FALL

What every older person fears, happened. I fell on my face in the night; no breaks, but bruises and black eyes. For a week I have listened to the comments: “Did you speak out of turn?” “What about the other guy?” “Your wife must have a great right hook!” One gentleman called me the “The Raccoon Man,” when he saw my black eyes. One woman said, “You look like the Phantom of the Opera,” and I smiled and replied,” I wish I could sing like him!” I shied away from Karen in the Gift Shop, but she said, “I have macular degeneration,” and can’t see your face very well.” Blessing in disguise, literally. One of my younger friends, Joe, looked at me and said, ‘That’s the best you’ve ever looked!” Perhaps the best response was from friend, Jack, in North Carolina. He sent me a card with a picture of an turtle with a stretch bandage and the caption read, “It’s not the speed that matters, it’s the getting there!. Really. Oh well, thanks to applying ice , the swelling has diminished and the purple and black mask is turning other colors.A monk was once asked, “What is the greatest secret of life,” and he replied, “We fall down; we get up; we fall down, we get up. We fall down, we get up; we fall down and get up in a better world!

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A TOUCH OF FALL IN THE AIR

We try to walk a mile a day around this retirement community. Tonight, as evening approached, I notice a touch of Fall in the air. One of the trees was starting to turn different colors and there was a crispness in the air. I am glad I live in western Pennsylvania where I can experience all four seasons of the year. It always give me a lift to watch trees change from green to orange, red and brown. Fall prepares for Winter. when the trees become bare and snow covers the ground. But cold weather helps us to appreciate warm weather, as we await the miracle of the budding and greening all over again. I wonder what kind of season changes he writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes experienced. He wrote, “”There is a season for every activity under heaven.” Winter is a time to slow down and hibernate and nurture the inner life. In a few weeks our book, Seasons of Caring will be published, which will feature emotional and spiritual seasons that caregivers of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia experience. You will hear much more from me as this book comes to life. It has been an incredible journey, with great dedication from editors and writers But, right now, I am enjoying the Fall season, attending granddaughter’s soccer games and band performances. I sit in the reserved section for the handicapped, which gives me a 50 yard line view of the field. This has proved to be a much needed respite from the computer for this octogenarian.

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STILL A TEACHER

It’s a new world I now live in as an octogenarian + 5. So much now is going virtual and I miss the old printed books. Now my daily paper has gone to a new format, printing a much smaller paper in smaller print. I really have to strain my feeble eyes to read it, and do the crossword puzzle. It is not age-friendly. But, despite all these changes, some things remain constant. I had a wonderful experience engaging with students by phone from Asbury Seminary last week. They asked great questions and the time flew by before I knew it. When I told Dr. Beverly Johnson-Miller how much I missed teaching, she replied.”But you are teaching.” She’s right! No longer do I have have face-to-face dialogue with students in a classroom setting. But, thanks to the marvels of the electronic world, I can still teach through conference calls, web seminars, and emails. My day was brightened by hearing from two former students. One, now a nurse, works with a psychiatrist ,and reminded me how much my Psychology meant to her 30+ years ago. The other was an older adult, who had attended my Remembering Your seminar in Florida 15 years ago and had taught from that book for several years. “Cast hour bread upon the water and it will return . . . ” It is heart warming to hear from former students. But, it is also a joy to still teach from the telephone and computer. Heraclitus was right, Heraclitus was right.” Nothing is as constant as change>” John Greenleaf Whittier said it well, “We know not what the future hath of marvel or surprise, assured alone in life and death, God’s mercy underlies.”

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BANNER DAY

Labor Day was rather dull until two granddaughters enlivened our day. We had a spot visit from granddaughter, Brannon, who is 17 years old and lives ten minutes away. She is a senior at Norwin High School, and plays the bass clarinet for the Norwin Band. Music is one of her many passions. She has applied to four colleges, but her hope is attending North Dakota State which has her desired programs in Aviation. I would be shocked if this bright, intelligent young lady doesn’t gain acceptance. Her visit was special to both of us, The other granddaughter, Kaitlyn lives in Yorba Linda California, and we talked to her by phone. She is a graduate of Sonoma State in Kinesiology and has just received word of her acceptance at Lake Washington Technical school to become a licensed physical therapist assistant. Kaitlyn has had much adversity to overcome with a strange bone disease which which caused two major surgeries. She is resilient and we congratulated her on her good news and her courage. Erik Erikson has called the 7th crisis of life, Generativity vs. Self Absorption. Although this crisis occurs in late middle age, it is also true for older age. I find myself more and more concerned with the next generations than my own issues. We have ten wonderful grandchildren, and they bless us with their meaningful lives. What had been a rather boring Labor Day was transformed by our visits, in person and by phone, of these two special young ladies.

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WISDOM PEOPLE

I read an article in Time magazine today entitled, “What Is The Good Life?” It told about Charlie White, who died recently at the age of 109. It said, “Charlie learned to separate those things he could control from those thing he could not;” “he didn’t fret about matters beyond his power.” Charlie added, “If I let people irritate me, I would have been dead long ago.” This is wisdom from a centenarian. I abhor some of the cutesy names given to those of who are “older.” I even shun being called a “senior citizen.” Even “golden agers” bothers me, for we often whisper those words under our breath like a curse. I like what the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria call their older people, WISDOM PEOPLE. Another “wisdom person” is Salvatore Caruso, who is now 106 years old (nice to hear from someone older than I am) When asked for the secret of his long life, he replied, with an impish smile, “No drinking, no smoking, no women.” Yeah, right. The question remains: Would you want to live to be 120 years old? That all depends. The Wisdom Solomon in the Apocrypha says it well. “Length of days is not what make age honorable nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, this is grey hairs, untarnished life, this is ripe old age.” One of my good friends here in also named Charlie White; he is now 96 years old and I don’t know if he will live to be 109. But, he has wisdom, garnered from many life experiences, keeps active and is a role model for me.

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NOT AS EXPECTED, AND YET!

One movie I watch again and again is The Natural. It is not just a movie about baseball, but a movie about life. One sees the battle between good and evil in the clash between the Judge, hiding in the shadows of a darkened room, and Roy Hobbs, a person with integrity who will not sell out to evil and blasts a game winner home run as light erupts. In 1949, a mentally ill woman, Ruth Ann Steinhagen shot Phillies 1st baseman, Eddie Waitkus. She disappeared into obscurity living a quiet life in Chicago until she died A year ago. That same scene is repeated when a psychotic athlete killer woman shoots Roy Hobbs, who disappears. Then, 21 years later, Hobbs reappears and signs on with the New York Knights. The scene that caught my attention occurs when Iris, his home town fiancee, looks across the table at a cafe and asks, “What’s happened to you, Roy?” Roy fidgets, looks out the window, and replies. “Life just didn’t didn’t turn out as I expected. and then adds. “Was I wrong to expect so much for my life? ” I resonate with his reply. As I look at my life, now closer to age 90 than age 80, it didn’t turn out like I expected. When I finished college, I wanted to attend Vanderbilt University an study journalism. I wanted to be a sports writer, like Max Mercy, in the movie. Instead. I went to Seminary, entered the ministry and had a long career as pastor, teacher, and chaplain ~~ It was only when I “retired” that I found a whole new career as a writer. So, in the end, my life did turn out as I expected with a strange twist, I became a writer, not of sports, but of life.

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