A Long Time Till Sunset

A Long Time Till Sunset:

(Click here for Audio Version) Something has been happening over the past few weeks. It seems like my sleep pattern is adjusting. Although I’m going to bed at the same time, it seems like I’m willing to take my time getting up, say, until at least 6, or 6:30. Strange. Maybe it’s the time change. Maybe it’s my Age. IDK… (I Don’t Know) Until the weekend, that is, and then I’m up at my usual pre-dawn time.

Getting in sync with my wife’s rising for work is probably the element I need to consider. She can easily sleep more than me, but when her first alarm goes off, I used to be in another room getting my day started. Now, I can easily sleep through the jangle until the second alarm. That “must and have to” alarm that says if you don’t get a move on you will end up behind the school buses.

This morning, my mind was working sluggishly as I took out the garbage and recycle can, the glass recycle container, to the end of my 150 foot driveway. I enjoyed the brush of morning cool and dampness, along with the fresh mown smell of grass that is growing a mile a minute…

I thought about how long it is till sunset.

Not the sunset of our natural world when the earth rotates my domicile away from the sun’s seemingly stationary position. My mind was really thinking about our sunset years. Our Twilight Years. Those waning moments of a life well spent and approaching those last few years of enjoying what’s happening around us.

My in-laws are both gone. All my grandparents have long since passed away, and Elder relatives are approaching those ancient years when their focus closes in, and the new few steps are more important than thinking about a non-existent grand vacation. I’ve had two aunts who passed away over the past month or so, both in their 90’s. 30 and 33 years older than my bride and I…

This made me wonder again about the sunset. Those ending years. Twilight. 

I want to be useful, no matter the amount of time I have left! I do not want to “fade to black” and simply disappear in the mist, as day fades to night like it did in the classic, Brigadoon. Till those last moments of life, I want to keep my mind and hands busy about the things that I am called to do, and only I can do.

What then will I be able to do, and what then will be my skill set and interest, and what then will I have the energy to complete? What then?

Thinking ahead never gets me in trouble, but it does open my thinking to skills and interests I have today that I can cultivate to be ready for those years of tomorrow.

In a quasi forced retirement, the Apostle Paul (from prison) asked for his cloak, books and parchments left at Troas (2 Timothy 4:13). He had been a tireless evangelist and church planter, opening the doors to the Gospel on his many missionary journeys, and now he was imprisoned. Before, when time permitted, I’m sure he penned travel letters to churches and leaders, but now that time was forced on him, he begin to write prolifically. Directing, teaching, admonishing, and essentially caring for those churches he was responsible for – only from a far off place. In this last known letter to Timothy, he wrote as he was being forced to consider that his time was short, and indeed it was.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

Did he have a typical Sunset? Maybe for that day and time, but most of us look forward to our waning years with a different eye. One says, Golf! Another says travel, and still others want to sit back and do nothing more than enjoy family.

I have an older friend who spent his “career” at a bible college teaching, and then traveling to churches and countries to teach after his wife passed, he is now going through some medical challenges that forces him to stay home. But does that make him quit! No! He still studies, and writes messages and thoughts daily, and I’m a recipient of his focus on scripture. Daily words come from him via text. Some deeper thoughts than I have time to consider, and others timely for something I need for the day. He’s in his 80’s and still producing!

There’s something about this post-industrial age that makes us feel like we may never get to retire. It is extremely expensive to exist without a growing income paced to the cost of living. Our living expenses, medical costs, transportation cost never retreat, they only advance. It’s almost a frightening thing to move into this age of life and not feel comfortable that you’ve prepared as well as possible, or that life may introduce some new twist that makes it harder to deal with.

I paused from this thought to call a friend this morning that I worked with back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He’s retired and struggling through a lot of health issues, and has not been surrounded by family for a while. I feel like I’m his family, so I stay in touch and am the better for it. I pray God’s blessing of peace, health and financial stability to be on them… This is not what our Sunset years should be like. 

This daily thought prompted me to consider what “retirement” must have looked like in the olden days of scripture. Moses pens God’s commandments to give framework to the work of the Levitical priesthood. Essentially, they entered their years of service to the temple by age 25, and then were forced from their labors by age 50. Their first 5 years, from 25 to 30, looked like apprentice years, and then they worked hard for 20 years, stopping to only oversee the younger ones entering and doing their roles. (Numbers 8:23-26, 4:3, 47) Their overseeing years would go on as long as they were able. But their production years quit at 50.

And I’m 62. The president is 70. Our Supreme Court judges are appointed for life and range in age from 49 to 84, and Justice Anthony Kennedy (nearly 81) has served for nearly 30 years. He began his appointment after the age of 50! The average age of our other politicians in federal service are between 57 and 62. And Airline Pilots get to keep working until they are 65!

The older generation must spend their years pouring knowledge and experience into the younger generation, else future generations will go awry…or simply fail.

Yet, those that have prepared and are entering their Sunset Years with challenges are a special breed. If they face it head on, then we can all learn something valuable. If they fail to show us the path and simply flee, then we have nothing in our data bank about this stage of life.

Remember Ronald Reagan? Actor. Governor. President of the United States. He succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer. How did he go down this path? Not hiding from it even though he was still under Secret Service protection. No. He made a declaration to the nation.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.” November 5, 1994: From the letter in which Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis — five years after leaving office.

This is a Sunset we never want to face, but many have faced it and other tragedies that we all learn from.

Here’s My Daily Thought: There is something hard about reaching a retiring age and having no one to take over, or feeling like you have no more usefulness once that age rears it’s head. It probably has a lot to do with how our culture treats the elderly among us. Many do not appreciate the wisdom of age, nor do many in that category live in such a way to make it easy for the younger ones to appreciate them.  But the day will come when the aged must step out of the limelight of involvement, and the younger ones will have their hands full trying to make sense of it all and carry the load forward.

I’m just saying, I’m thinking about how our Sunset Years and they are not a fanciful place to look forward to…but I know that they will come, and I want to be prepared. Even if the preparation is never fully realized, I never want it to be said, “He never gave thought to his waning years.”