Sunrise or Sunset of life?
By Will Randolph
The final chapters of our lives are written a day at a time, every day. This is because most of us do not have any idea just how many days we are given in life. As a child I remember the intro into to some Western on television that spoke to this fact. I do not remember the specific line but it mentioned how each second that passed we did not know if it would be our last.
There are websites where a person can plug in medical history, family history, social history, etc. and it will predict a day, hour, and second of your demise along with the methodology of death. It is a fun exercise though of little practical value. The last one I completed had me passing at age 93, in 2050 in my sleep. Just for fun I went back and retook the test and this time did not answer truthfully, instead answering with made up parameters. For instance, I answered that I regularly participated in Skydiving, that I drank a 6 pack of beer, a glass of wine, and a cocktail everyday, and never exercised. Thinking by doing this I was cooking the books, I would shave years off, I was totally confused by the outcome: the result had me living another 4 years longer than the truthful test.
This got me to thinking. What would I do with 4 extra years: Would I work 4 years longer before retiring? Would I save more money for retirement so I could enjoy 4 years of fun. A longer life doesn't necessarily equate to a better life. I marvel at people who live many years after retirement. Some of the people I knew as a Chaplain had spent more years in retirement than they did working. One gentleman retired at 55 years of age after 40 years in a steel mill, and was now 96 years of age when I met him. These years were bonus time for him because he had a comfortable union pension and he was on his own time.
The last quarter of life has been described by some as the Golden Years for the last fleeting rays of sunlight during the day. Many retirement communities and nursing homes have a euphemistic title which includes a reference to the end of the day-- titles like sunset, twilight, or Evenwhatever. I feel this is a false term or misnomer for my final quarter, or bonus time call retirement. I want my final quarter of life to be purposeful and meaningful like no time before in my life. I have literally been preparing for this bonus time my whole life.
This is why I have nicknamed my final quarter of life, dawn, first light, or daybreak. At 56 years young, soon I will presumably entered my final quarter if I have not already. The average lifespan in 2006 of an Adult Male was about 78 years which means if I beat it, I have 25 to 37 years (if you believe the website date for my demise) left to build my legacy in life or bonus time.
When I was in school I always like getting additional time, particularly at the last minute to finish an assignment even when I had my homework completed. This tells me that in life, the bonus time of retirement or old age should be viewed in the same way, as extra time to complete our life purpose and add to our accumulations in life. Often times I did not do any additional work to my assignments during bonus time, but sometimes it allowed me to pull a project out of the fire and get it completed when I was off track and running out of time. Bonus time sometimes mean better project.
What we accumulate in life and especially in Bonus time are memories, friends, knowledge, and legacy, things we accumulate so we can leave them behind for others. This accumulation become our legacy, or the way we stake a claim to the fact our lives meant something. My grandpa Thorn Oliphant who was a farmer, staked a very unusual legacy in the last year of his life when he allowed me to plant peach pits on his farm at 91 years of age. He told me up front that he would not ever taste the fruit from the trees but he enjoyed the thought of how I would have great pleasure eating the peaches and how I would think of him whenever I bit into one of his peaches
My dawn is coming and I am going to plant peach trees for someone to think of me and share in the joy.