Maybe I was “ripe” for his words; perhaps I simply valued his focused phrasing. Whatever the reason, months later I still resonate with my pastor’s pronouncement: If you’re not dead, you’re not done.
Though it would have been a first for me in church (or elsewhere, for that matter), I wanted to jump from the pew and shout, “Amen, JM!” Because he is right. Breathing, bending, bouncing bodies still have work to do. Yet, we have bought into the lie that at 55 or 60 or 65 or 70, we are expected and allowed to default into the easy chair of life and wait for our best friends to escort our box to the burial plot. I am here to propose that it is merely halftime (or in some cases, the fourth quarter with time on the clock), and we have living to do. But as is the fact with most of life, no one is going to finish the game for us. We need to pick up the ball and keep on maneuvering toward the end zone.
Just how do we do that? One way is to imitate the other quarterbacks of life who have managed the game quite well.
Aunt R is seven months away from turning 100. She has grieved over two husbands, a son, a grandson–and many, many friends and other relatives. Six years ago she boarded a plane and flew the 900 miles to the bedside of my dad (her brother) following his horrific and life-ending car crash. Returning through O’Hare on one of the worst winter nights of the decade, she was trapped by grounded planes and -50 degree wind chills. Yet she bravely climbed into a grandchild’s car and traveled the remaining 200 miles. She returned to her house, exhausted and sad, but she did not hunker down and vow to “never leave home again.” She soldiered on–and still does, attending family picnics and holiday gatherings.
Three years ago, after her cat, Pilgrim, died, she announced that she was “selling my car and home and moving into assisted living.” She now takes her walker on a spin twice daily around the senior building, keeping her legs moving forward and her mind engaged as she socializes with residents in the blocks of rooms. She is my pick for the NFL (Not Finished Living) Hall of Fame. She will succumb one day, but she will also go down in the record books for finishing well.
Aunt R is not super human (though at 13 she did travel the Oregon trail with her parents in a Model A). She is a woman who worked 50+ years outside of the home and managed a family and farm at the same time. She rose every morning, as she still does, got dressed, ate breakfast, and embraced the day–whatever day it was. Though she is reliant on others now for her food prep and transportation, she does not refuse to carry on. She adjusts to this life and believes it is hers to embrace. Over the years, she has managed teams of families and colleagues, and if she now must observe from the sidelines rather than grapple in the game, so be it. But she takes what she has left in life, and she keeps moving–to the dining hall, on her walking circuit, to my car–to go for lunch and chat about the world. Here’s to deliberate living. Go for it.