For much of my life I felt that I was going to this life forever. O.K., I knew that I would have to die someday, but that seemed in the far distant future.
Then 13 years ago, at the age of 59, I had a stroke and came face to face with my mortality. I could have died then. I also had a blood clot on my lungs which was even more likely to have killed me. I came out of hospital in a wheelchair but I have largely recovered, to about 80% of my former physical abilities.
Next month is my 73rd birthday but in my mind I still feel about 30 years of age. I get frustrated that my body has it limitations.
- Why is walking any distance such a chore?
- Why am I so exhausted after an hour working in the garden or the allotment?
- Why, when I suddenly need to relieve myself, had I better be within 20 yards of a toilet?
- Why do I stumble over my speech?
- Why is my right hand so lacking in dexterity?
Names and words
Then there is the matter of forgetting names and words. I go to say a person’s name, and my memory fails to extract the sound of the name from its database. I know it’s there somewhere because it often pops into my head 5 minutes later.
The same is sometimes true of words. I pride myself as having quite a good vocabulary. In communicating ideas there is often only one word which expresses exactly what I wish to say. But sometimes the word escapes me as I am about to use it. If I am talking verbally then I panic a bit and use about 20 words where one would have done. Sometimes when I use written language the same thing happens and I have to insert a blank and come back to it later. Or I can use an online thesaurus and type a simpler word hoping that the right word will come up. I refuse to believe the doubt that enters my mind that this is an early stage of dementia, but I have to accept that it is a sign of advancing years.
No-one knows when they will die. I have always had a target figure of 90 years in mind. The drugs I take should prevent me having another stroke – but who can tell? Financial planning would be easier if I knew exactly how long I had. When I bought an annuity with pension money I was offered an enhanced annuity because having had a stroke the pension company thought my life expectancy would be reduced. I didn’t believe them but gladly received the extra money!
There are various “life expectancy calculators” on the internet. I have tried a few and they have come up with numbers between 87 and 93. According to one, I have a 20% chance of living to 100! Another says that if I gave up drinking coffee, did more brain challenging activities, cut down on red meat and made ten other adjustments, I could (statistically) add 8 years to my life!
Living for ever
I take the teachings and life of Jesus seriously and believe that God sent his Son into the world to save us from the curse of death so that we can live forever. But I have only one chance to live this present life so I had better make the most of it. I see no conflict between the hope for a life after death and wanting to add quantity and quality to this present life. I want to live for many years yet and with the abundance that being reconciled with my creator brings to my life, here and now.
So never mind the physical limitations of ageing. I want to bring joy and blessing to my wife, my family, my friends and everyone I am in contact with for as long as God gives me breath.