A Catholic Monthly Magazine

When an old bloke just sits

By Fr Kevin Bates SM

It’s a truly splendid autumn morning. The old bloke has done a turn around the garden for some exercise and then sits on a garden seat to get a mandatory daily dose of Vitamin D. Life’s slower for him at the moment as it has been for most of us lately, giving him time to take in more reflectively the little part of the world that he inhabits.

Handsome grandfather in a autumn park. Old man

A colony of ants, unlike him, are full of their daily work and he marvels at the speed with which the tiny creatures motor along on legs too small for him to see. Where are they off to with such urgency? An ungainly ibis takes an appropriately ungainly drink from a nearby birdbath. He wonders at the wisdom behind their quaint design! He supposes that someone must appreciate them.

At his feet an autumn leaf has come to rest. In its glory days it was green, pulsing with life and promise. Now, in an all too short time, here it is, lifeless with only faint memories to sustain it. Sitting in slow motion as he is, he notices that the leaf even now has a certain beauty, the shape, the veins so symmetrical and the lightness of its being, all reflecting something of creation’s mysterious, transforming cycles. 

The air is almost still with only the slightest cooling breath softening the sun’s warmth. 

Sitting in slow motion his thoughts turn inwards. Memories, diminishing health, thoughts about the future all stream by and occupy his few minutes in the sun. 

Some things have been achieved well enough and he is pleased to remember. He has been well loved through a lifetime and for this he is filled with thankfulness. There are some hearts who have entered his heart-story who have enabled him, through their priceless selflessness, to stay the course set years ago. 

There is one who has loved, healed and mentored him and fostered the growth of gifts that have gone on to nourish many along the way. This patient and sometimes suffering love is something of God’s own making.

Among the memories are failures, mistakes, poor judgements, probably similar to the ones that inhabit the heart of every other old bloke. He feels the pinch of them and prays for healing for those he may have hurt along the way and for forgiveness for himself, though God knows he’s prayed for that often enough through the years. 

He is glad for the present, especially for the chance it gives him to be still, to be an old bloke just sitting!

Two more notables on the world stage have died in the past day or so and their deaths are reported on the news, along with their ages. He realises that they were not much older than he is and that brings him to pondering his future, which is necessarily growing shorter even as he sits. The final full-stop to his life is getting closer and he looks towards it with a certain calm curiosity. 

Like everyone else, he knows not the day nor the hour nor the manner of his demise. That it will happen he is sure. How, he’s not too concerned, though he would like to leave without creating too much fuss. Being kindly entrusted back into the Creator’s arms by whoever happens to be around at the time with a prayer, a song and a raised glass would do just fine. 

Next time you see an old bloke just sitting, chances are that there’s a whole life being lived, digested, reviewed and perhaps even reverenced. It’s possibly the same with an old lady, though you’d need her to tell you about that!

He’s had enough sun, in fact it’s over the yard-arm, so the old bloke gets up and walks, taking his musings with him. He’s had a few minutes of a peculiar grace that leave him still and glad.

Tagged as:

Comments are closed.