A Catholic Monthly Magazine

There is a Time for Everything

by Anne Kerrigan

“There is a time for everything , and a season for every activity under heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I recently celebrated a grandson’s birthday, his thirtieth! How could he be thirty years old? Impossible. It didn’t seem that long ago when I was thirty. Yet, here I am, well into my retirement years, in the ninth decade of life, while he is just starting his career as a teacher. As I was considering this situation, I really began to internalise the disparity of life goals facing my grandson and me, actually facing all of us, depending on what stage of life we are in. Ecclesiastes was right on target; there really is a season for everything under the heavens. 

My grandson’s many goals were still before him; developing his teaching career, advancing his role as a lacrosse coach, and planning for marriage and a family. His future will involve addressing those many and varied milestones. My goals, while also many and varied, are very different from my grandson’s. 

This situation also reminded me of an observation by Dr. Seuss. He states, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s noon. December is here before June. My goodness, how time has flown.”

Since I am in my declining years, I will have to handle many decisions concerning health care, living conditions, and ultimately preparing myself for the final letting go, death. This is my time, and I say this not in a negative or morbid sense, but rather as a practical assessment of this stage of my life. Ronald Regan’s farewell letter to the American people stated, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.” As do I.

 I view it as my final spiritual goal, and, for a number of reasons, I want to do it well. I know I must prepare for my inevitable passing, and I do not want to leave a chaotic mess for my children. There really is a time for everything under heaven, and here is where the practical side of me kicks in! I want to prepare my final arrangements so that my children are not saddled with those obligations. For the record, my wonderful, ethical and spiritual children are not regular church goers, so I am not sure they would know what kind of a service I would like. I want to pick out the music and the readings for my funeral Mass so that the service is meaningful. Of course, being ‘meaningful’ is all in the eyes of the beholder, but I want the service to reflect who I am, hoping that those in attendance will recognise and understand my beliefs and preferences. I am moving along in those final preparations. I have already chosen the readings and the music, and I have already purchased a niche which will contain my cremated remains. I have prepared my memorial card and I have started meeting with the local funeral director in order to complete my preparations. So this phase of my final preparations is well under way.

Another goal for this stage of my life is to become a minimalist. I have lived in this same home for sixty-three years, raised five children within these walls. Therefore, I have accumulated some stuff. Now, I am neither a hoarder nor even much of saver, but nonetheless the stuff accumulates, so I guess I am a bit of a saver. When I think of the enormous task before me, it overwhelms me. I felt exhausted before I even began. I decided I had to develop a strategy or my plan to really downsize just would not work.

As I mulled over my strategy, I recalled, many years ago, while on a retreat, the retreat master made a point which I have never forgotten. She explained that an elderly aunt had died, leaving a large, old house which she had lived in for many years. Since this nun was the closet living relative, it fell to her to clear out the house, preparing it for sale. It presented a daunting challenge. The task seemed crushing, but this sister explained how she did it. She went shelf by shelf, never thinking ahead to all the other remaining shelves, closets, basement and garage. Shelf by shelf. She explained that she prayed over each shelf as she sorted the donations and the discards. At the time, that plan resonated with me but I figured that I would have no use for it for many years, so I just filed that plan in the back of my mind. It was decades ahead for me. HA! “Time waits for no man,” is a very popular American adage, and it is so very true. I thought that the sister’s organisational plan was eons in the future, but here it was. 

I have chosen to follow her example as I tackle the closets, draws and shelves. I truly take one shelf at a time, and I do pray over the shelf and the contents, asking the Spirit to guide my choices which are to discard, donate or save. As Marie Kondo, the Japanese organisational expert said, “If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it!”

It brings me peace to pray over each shelf as I am then more easily able to part with items which actually haven’t been used in years. No joy, gone! I am making progress, slow but steady. And I am starting to feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. As a result of my purging, the Vietnam Veterans of America have been busy with my many donations. Everyone’s happy. Let’s hope I can continue on this roll so the kids won’t be talking about me when I’m gone! HA!

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