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Posted February 7, 2012

Aging Gracefully

Eugene Hemrick

“It is depressing turning 60! I feel I haven’t accomplished anything with my life.”

With each passing decade in our life, most of us are plagued with these feelings. We tend to wonder, “What have I really achieved?” Even though we may be blessed with wonderful children, a loving wife or husband, a rewarding job, a beautiful home and great friends, we question our lifelong successes.

Years ago, singer Peggy Lee sang, Is That All There is to Life? It is the story of a woman recalling significant events in her life. After each event, she repeats the skeptical refrain, “Is that all there is to life?” The song is the direct anthesis to the song, It Was a Very Good Year, sung by Frank Sinatra. In it a woman reflects on significant moments in her life, and repeats the soothing refrain, “It was a very good year.”

Why does growing older, more often than not, leave us gloomy and skeptical of our success?

One reason for this is that accomplishments, no matter their significance, fade quickly, causing us to wonder, “Is that all there is to life?” Nothing is more sobering than writing a great book, receiving rave reviews and years later seeing it sold for a dollar amongst a pile of other old books. When we feel outdated, often this translates into falling into nothingness.

At first glance, the Book of Ecclesiastes seems to confirm the worthlessness of life. “Vanity of vanities” it shouts, “all of life is vanity!”

A closer reading of the book teaches that we are being encouraged to live the moment and put aside thoughts of the past and future. It is the same message the revered spiritual writer

Jean- Pierre de Caussade echoes in his book, The Sacrament of the Present Moment: embrace wholeheartedly the present moment, and imbibe in the nourishing life with which God blesses us! Some years ago, I found an excellent spiritual exercise, Theological Reflection, on how to practice this principle.

At the end of the day, it encourages us to reflect on all the significant moments it contained. They may include a person complimenting us, a phone call from a long-lost friend, or a brief, but meaningful conversation with a total stranger.

Theological Reflection encourages us to recall and savor the many graces we receive in the course of a day, to drink in the moment, be one with it, and to count our blessings. More often than not, we don’t take time to enjoy wholesome moments. Nothing is more life nourishing than living life to the fullest. It is our best antidote against the depression that comes from the passing of yet another decade in our life.