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Reform Magazine | December 6, 2023

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On the pilgrim way ‘I worry about crossing my bridges too soon’

Sheila Maxey on the challenge of living in the present

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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

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  1. Anna Briggs

    Sheila Maxey love your piece (above) Please can you contact me about shawls for Sir David Amess’ family. You can email me at or ring me on 01904 784504 ( we retired to York)

    Look forward to hearing from you
    anna briggs

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