This week I am thinking with great sadness about Lewis Brancati and his family including the whole family of Westside UU Congregation. A life changes between one moment and the next and then we all must adapt to those new circumstances. It can happen to a 3-day old infant or someone who is 80.
As we get older or become more aware of death and aging we may tend to obsess about it. I know I do. At one level, the progression of aging means we prepare documents ‘just in case’ we fall ill or suffer a sudden loss of health. Advanced directives and wills are part of that planning. There are deeper levels, too. We begin to address (or avoid) questions about what happens after death; how do we feel with the scary knowledge that our sense of ‘self’ will change or disappear after we cease living.
In America, we seem to avoid talking about aging and death unless marketing or health products are involved. My generation of baby-boomers are less than enthusiastic about growing old. We are – after all – the generation that decided to not trust anyone over 30. That was easy to say in our teens and 20’s. Now we are well beyond 30 and probably lived far longer than we expected in the Vietnam and Cold War eras.
This year I want to explore how we might make friends with aging and death regardless of our age. No age range is immune from facing illness, death and loss. The earthquakes and storms of this summer have killed thousands of people who were likely living normal lives with the usual dilemmas we all face: what to eat; how’s my family; do I like my job? Then, the world changed from one moment to the next and all our normal questions about life were put aside.
On October 22 after the Sunday service I’d like to invite anyone who is interested in exploring the question of making friends with aging and death to attend an informal meeting in the sanctuary at 12:30. I will talk about possible books to read in this group but I’d like to focus as well on our emotional and spiritual practice connections with the question of aging and death. Several of you have already contacted me to say you’d like to attend. Others might not be available that Sunday but we will keep the group open for a time until we agree on times and frequency of meetings. Please contact me if you have questions or ideas about reading materials and ways to present this very difficult topic.
May we keep Lewis and his circles of family and friends in our hearts and prayers. They and all of us face this difficult truth that life is indeed precious and it is also impermanent. We can only do our best to face it all with as much love and equanimity as we can.