“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”
Recently I turned 64. For nearly thirty years I’ve been haunted by 64. My dad died of colon cancer at the age of 64. At the time, it seemed terribly unfair. Unfair that after working hard all his life and saving a comfortable nest egg, he did not get to enjoy a well-earned retirement.
Unfair that he did not get to spend hours at his favorite pastime fishing, or traveling with my mother to distant places.
Unfair that he did not get to play with his grandchildren, or they get to know him. (My girls were six and two and a half when he died; my brother’s three boys had not even been born).
Now, of course, after years as a pastor, burying children and teenagers and young adults, I’m acutely aware that many people are not granted even 64 years of life on this planet.
But back then, at the time my father died, I began to be haunted by the question, “What if you, John Wright, get only 64 years of life? What if you get even less, considerably less? What if you, like your father, don’t get to see your own grandchildren grow up?” 64? Unfair!
However, somewhere in my early 50’s, my perspective changed. Instead of fearing that my life might turn out to be like the proverbial half-empty glass, I began to realize all the blessings of my half-full glass of life! I had lived long enough to see my daughters grow into competent young adults. I had seen places and things many people never get to see. And I began to accept my own finitude –that there would be plenty of things and places I’d never get to see, even if I lived to be a hundred. And, inexplicably, the assuring thought came to me, “Okay, God, if this is all I get, it’s ENOUGH! –more, far more than many people get.”
Through the gloom and dread of the possibility of a half-full life that had long haunted me since my father’s death, I suddenly glimpsed this shining reality at the heart of the universe: the sheer giftedness of existence!—that life is not owed me—that nothing in the universe required my existence –that I am here at all, however long or short my life is, however good or bad, as a sheer GIFT—a gift that can only be received with open hands, never a possession to be clutched with tight fists.
To savor each moment of life to the fullest, without worrying if it might be my last—that is blessedness. Well now I’ve finally arrived at the long-anticipated 64. And though I’ll be glad for more, it is enough.