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BOOK REVIEW: Older adults share stories of hope Mary Jacobs, Apr 12, 2011
By Mary Jacobs Staff Writer
Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults Missy Buchanan Upper Room Books, 2011 Paperback, 96 pages
There’s no shortage of books offering a plethora of advice for those who want to stay young—or just look that way. But for those who are ready to accept aging as part of life, and still make the best of it, the reading list is much shorter.
Enter Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet, by Missy Buchanan, who writes a bi-weekly Aging Well column for the Reporter. Ms. Buchanan has assembled a series of 30 profiles of real people who are, as she writes, “still living with purpose in their late years.”
Every one of these stories contains at least one reminder of a very unpleasant fact: Aging inevitably involves loss. The folks she profiles are grappling with the relatively minor losses—like having to give up driving, or putting up with aches and pains—as well as the major losses—the death of a loved one, the loss of vitality and good health, having to leave a beloved home.
We hear from Jewell, 90, who lost her sight. Winston, 84, once a successful and independent businessman, can no longer drive. Betty, 86, left the home that she and her deceased husband built as newlyweds to move to a one-bedroom home in a retirement community. Jim, 77, watches helplessly as the spirit of his wife, Nancy, slips away due to dementia.
Likely no one of these folks will overcome their situation and find a storybook ending. But life isn’t over. Within each person’s story emerges examples of hopefulness, strength and purpose. Each profile tells of new friends, new adventures and new projects discovered and begun late in life.
In her new, one-bedroom home, Betty enjoys her new freedom from yard work, home repair and cooking. Winston finds joy in helping people find jobs at a local food pantry. Jewell, while blind, still has the ability to see the best in every situation; when others at the retirement community gripe about the food, she says she’s thankful she didn’t have to prepare it. Jim takes Nancy to choir rehearsal, where, despite her diminished faculties, she still announces every week to fellow choir members: “God is good.”
These are small victories—not the triumphs that make for dramatic movies—but they are real. Readers see quiet, abiding happiness blossom in lives that, on first glance, seem severely limited.
Our culture denies the realities of aging and death, and denial is a way of avoiding the truth. But the Bible teaches that the truth will set us free. With its clear-eyed portrayal of the realities of aging, along with the genuine hope and purpose that can remain, this little book gives glimpses of a kind of freedom that “anti-aging” books will never quite comprehend.