On the pilgrim way ‘I worry about crossing my bridges too soon’
Sheila Maxey on the challenge of living in the present
I am in a bit of a turmoil, trying to live fully in the present and at the same time worrying that I should be looking to the future.
When I was a young mother I kept wishing time away: looking forward to the time when the children would be out of nappies, or go to school, or be able to walk to school alone. Why did I wish their precious childhood away?
Now, in active old age but with dementia on the horizon, I want time to stand still, or even go back just a few years. The obviously good thing is just to live fully in the present – end of story. But does that mean making no plans, no wise provision for the future?
Some years ago my sister-in-law wisely pushed her farmer husband to move from the country into the town because she had begun to notice early signs of dementia in him (she had been a geriatric consultant). So now my dear brother-in-law is quite at home in the new house, can walk to the shops and can happily give up driving.
But I worry about ‘crossing my bridges’ too soon – will I discern when it is God’s time?
When I was in a local pastorate I was able to pop in on my parents daily, because they lived next door. When they were 95 and 91 I moved to work in Church House in London, in a role which involved quite a lot of travelling. Some eyebrows were raised – could she not just have waited until. . .? Those thoughts were in my mind too. My parents lived to be 100 and 98!
Of course, time doesn’t stand still and whether I like it or not my life is changing. Kees and I used to say we were like ships that pass in the night because of our many commitments – a very rich time, as we had a lot to tell each other. Now we are companions on the way – not always in step because we are two people, not one, ageing in different ways. Of course, this time has its own riches – slow looking at the world as we shop and go for walks, memories to pick over, visits and news of the next generations.
Mathilda, my first great-great-niece, was born in Berlin this month. I am planning to pass on to her the little bag my grandmother, born in the US in 1861, gave me when I was a little girl. Faced with that span of time and space, I feel myself letting go – a little – of my current anxieties.
Nothing distress you, nothing affright you, everything passes, God will abide.
St Teresa of Avila
Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex
This article was published in the October 2021 edition of Reform