Aging with grace. That is still ahead of me. I suppose if I continue blogging, you readers will see the aging, and if I’m unfortunate, the gracelessness of that. My wife is almost always too nice to be critical. She always seems to find the silver lining. She might give me a knowing look, then change the subject. (“Thanks for the dinner, honey.”)
I saw a headline on the search engine about Linda Ronstadt’s singing voice being overtaken by Parkinson’s Disease. It brought to mind the sad news I heard a few years ago about Daryl Dragon (think Captain with Tennille) no longer performing in public with his wife Toni Tennille because of a similar condition. No amount of persuading could push him to try. I understand that. If I couldn’t play music to my satisfaction, I wouldn’t play at all. (And I suspect that for a pro like Mr Dragon, his standards are quite high.)
I had three liturgies to play this past weekend: a wedding Saturday and two Masses yesterday. I didn’t feel quite as fresh at 7pm Mass last night as I did earlier in the day. I remember being able to knock off up to six liturgies a weekend 25 years ago. Of course, that demanded a Sunday afternoon nap. But the slumber was more to recharge my introverted nature than exhaustion. Nothing wakes me from slumber like playing for liturgy and playing with good friends.
Job’s lament comes to mind.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord! (Job 1:21b)
Will I be able to say it without irony or bitterness when my fading comes into full view?
How does this reflection inform my ministry to older parishioners? Am I able to muster empathy for someone’s situation that I might have very strong feelings about myself? How does a minister or spiritual guide help others in such a situation?
Not a very cheery thought for a Monday. But it does bring to mind Pope Francis’s urging of his brother Jesuits to serve at the farthest boundaries. Old age and infirmity is certainly a far boundary for many of us. We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to embrace it. And many of us run screaming from that border of life. And yet, we are called to go, to serve.
And for myself, the reflection gets a little more intense. These musicians I mentioned are ten, fifteen years older than I am. A decade does not seem so far. And if I were concerned with those beyond my own little universe, I’m sure I would find people at those thresholds very near to me. Likely nearer than I know.
Good God, give us the grace to see and to serve.