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   Tim Stafford¹ presents the “week” of aging and dying. Think of 65 as the point of beginning…

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(1) The Freedom Day

   Begins with retirement, which introduces the life of leisure. The great challenge is to make good use of freedom, to deal responsibly with a life “without responsibilities.” Having finished their career, elders must find their [new] vocation.

 

For more use the DOOR.

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   (2)  The Day of Reflection

   Leads an elder to begin meditating on his life. Oftern a sudden shock–perhaps a mild stroke, or the death of a near friend–precipitates a mental adjustment. The second day is less busy, increasingly meditative.

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   (3)  The Widow’s Day 

   Comes with the loss of a spouse [either sex, of course]. For the one left behind, there is tremendous loneliness and grief, but the requirement and opportunity to form a new self-definition.

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   (4)  The Role-Reversal Day

   Begins when an older person needs regular help to get along. She [or he] must deal with her [or his] own dependency, and if her [or his] children are involved in helping, with being parented by those she [or he] has parented. Relationships must be negotiated. On this day, particularly, we are forced to look for the good in losses.

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   (5)  The Dependence Day

   Comes when a person must lean on others for basic life maintenance–eating, bathing, dressing. Often the whole family  is involved at this stage, and must make critical decisions about who will provide the care, and how. There is a need to foster dignity and purpose, even in the face of grave disability.

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   (6)  The Farewell Day

   The period of preparing for death.

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   (7)  The Sabbath Day

   The day of worship, the day of rest. While a secularist must see death as the end, Christians see it as the beginning of a new life. For families left behind, the Seventh Day is a period for recapturing the whole image of the person who has died.²

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   These seven days shape Stafford’s presentation.

   Most of us–young and old–just don’t want to think about human “end times.” Picture the typical retirement home ad–a golfer, club in hand, water in a manufactured pond called a lake in the background, and a very fit male and female with a touch of gray passing by on bicycles, with the assumption there’s no curfew, and one can repeat what’s shown tomorrow and the day after that.

   It’s not just the young who are attracted to fairy tales.

   Somewhere along the way, family members of all ages–where a family still exists–profit from sharing “what comes next” for those coming to their end on Earth.

   Tim Stafford, a member of a pretty enviable family, at 39 (I exchanged emails with Stafford to confirm his age then) wrote this manual on how to think about old age. His POV³ reflects that. It would be nice to hear how an end-of-the-roader with most of his marbles would approach this. Still, this seems like a pretty good book to lay out aging issues out that many families are reluctant to discuss (but will have to eventually). A lot of soft research elevates this to something more than just one Christian’s opinion. I’ll say more about this at another time.

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   ¹ Tim Stafford is a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Christianity Today Magazine. His latest book: The Adam Quest: Eleven scientists who held on to a strong faith while wrestling with the mystery of human origins. In 2013, he wrote a novel, Birmingham, set in the civil rights protests of 1963.

   ² The 7 days cited here, cited with a bit of editorial modification (especially bracketed info) are from pp. 22-23 of Stafford’s As Our Years Increase: Loving, Caring, Preparing for Life Past 65 (Harper, 1991; picked up after first published by Zondervan, 1989; it has been slightly revised since). Of this book, Philip Yancy writes, “Nothing else that I have read on the topic comes close to Tim Stafford’s book, which has breadth, wisdom, practicality, and a fine, gentle style.”

   ³ POV is “point of view,” which sometimes is a significant factor in how a piece of fiction or nonfiction is looked at. Our point here is that someone looking ahead to old age may look at aging quite differently than one who’s already arrived. We’ve dealt with POV in 6 previous posts. To locate them, type “POV” in the search rectangle at the upper left at the top of this post.