I had a strange and slightly backward realization last week. I had the opportunity to attend a prayer meeting at a senior’s home with a few of the seniors from the church. When we were visiting together afterward, I looked around the table and had this thought:
“What will life be like when there are no more seniors in my life… because I WILL BE THE SENIOR?”
And you know what my thought — my very backwards thought — was? I became sad and wondered how I was going to have any hope when I no longer had any seniors to look up to.
I know most people, and most of society, looks to youth as the source of hope: the new generation to carry on, maybe even get it right, or at least better than what’s gone on before. But for me, hope has always come in the way of seniors: people who have experienced so much, all of the stuff of life, and have made it through. That is so hopeful for me. I am inspired when I think of what those bodies have gone through, what those eyes have seen, and what those hearts have known.
And it kind of scared me to think of a time when there would no longer be that group of people to look up to, to glean advice from, or to merely sit with. What will it be like when there are no more seniors to me because I am the senior?
Maybe this is some backwards way of fearing my mortality. Maybe I don’t think I have what it takes to make it to the senior citizen stage. Maybe I’m (no, actually I am) scared of what life may throw at me in the next thirty or forty years. And I think I look at the life of an older person as something so much more peaceful because they know that they have made it through.
Of course, I just finished writing a paper that touched on death anxiety, so I know that there’s plenty to fear at the end of life as well. But there is something so peaceful and inspiring to me about looking back on your story and your life in old age, as opposed to the uncertainty of looking ahead at what is to come in youth. I know with that “knowing” there is also the keen awareness of one’s mistakes and regrets, but at least you know what has happened. And that certainty appeals to me.
I have some thoughts and fears of my own to work through here. But I was quite surprised at the reaction I had when I imagined a world in which I had no more senior citizens.