Written by Jane Kuepfer, Schlegel Specialist in Spirituality and Aging.
When asked a few months ago what advice they would give about aging, a group of seniors responded, “Expect the unexpected.” That advice is relevant to all of us this spring!
In later life it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what may be around the next bend. Life happens. And, as with a pandemic, we may not recognize our resources or find our resilience until we’re in the midst of it.
As Joan Chittester writes in The Gift of Years, “In age, mystery comes alive. Nothing is very sure anymore. Everything speaks of maybe and perhaps, might and possibly, I might still be here. And I might not. Then, as the years go by, we learn to trust the goodness of time, the glorious cornucopia of life called God.”
Our spiritual lives can be a valuable resource when disappointments and upheaval come our way. Connection with others, the natural world, and the Divine ground us and reassure us that we are not alone, even when required to keep physical distance between us. Relationship with God also gives space for lament while inviting us to live faithfully in our circumstances.
While pandemic response implored us to protect the elderly, recognizing the physical vulnerability that comes with age, I hope we will also learn respect for those who have many years behind them, as carriers of hope and perseverance when things do not go as planned. And to learn from them to adapt when change is necessary. For the ‘Spirituality & Aging’ program this means that instead of joining us here in June, Dr. Janet Ramsey is preparing an online seminar entitled “Embodying hope, faith and patience in caregiving in the midst of a pandemic: Practical and spiritual resources for a complicated vocation,” and my Shalom Counselling Breakfast talk on “Loving Aging: Inspiration for living fully” has been moved to next May.
In the meantime, may we carry on, with trust, hope and love—and absorb the peace that can come with expecting the unexpected.
This piece first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of ‘Grebel Now’, from Conrad Grebel University College.