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Landscapes of Aging and Spirituality

Landscapes of Aging and Spirituality

Essays

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In 19 lovely essays, elders reflect on the experience of aging and how it intersects with their spiritual lives. These heartfelt ruminations are alternately tender and frank, funny and wistful.

Editor: Kathleen Montgomery

Price: $12.00

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The French have a phrase for that part of the day when it is no longer daylight but not yet dark, L'Heure Bleue. In English, The Blue Hour. Photographers call it "the sweet hour" because of the quality of the light. That's how I've come to think of this stage of life: bittersweet and beautiful because of the quality of the remaining light.
—from the Preface by Kathleen Montgomery

In a collection of lovely essays, nineteen writers reflect on the experience of aging and the ways it intersects with their spiritual lives. Alternately tender and frank, funny and wistful, these heartfelt ruminations offer companionship for those walking the journey of later life. The authors, many of them retired ministers, approach the topic from many angles, with many stories—including adjusting to wearing leg braces due to neuropathy, being called "a woman of your age," considering what it would be like to have nothing left to prove, and reflecting on assisted suicide and its impact on those we love. These thoughtful writers ponder growing older as a spiritual path—not one that we choose, but one that has chosen us.

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Contents

Preface

The Buddha in My Bedroom
  Jane Ranney Rzepka

Like Potato Chips
  Tom Schade

A Person of a Certain Age
  Patricia Tummino

A Witness to Life, Death and Then
  Carl Scovel

Beginners Mind
  Maureen Killoran

Rise in Body or in Spirit
  William Sinkford

A Woman of Worth
  Lynn Thomas Strauss

Memento Mori
  Burton D. Carley

On Turning Seventy
  Phyllis B. O'Connell

For Most This Amazing Life
  Richard S. Gilbert

Being Still
  Judith Meyer

Possessed
  Peter Morales

Recently Retired
  Kate Tucker

Lesson from Great Pond
  Gary E. Smith

The Small Stuff
  Denise Taft Davidoff

A Song in the Face of Death
  John Cummins

Exit Strategies
  Susan Weston

Time Travel
  Martin Teitel

The Path
  Mark Belletini

About the Contributors

I stand witness and I confess that I was born in goodness, that I have been guided all my life by goodness, though I often did not heed that guidance. I witness that I was and am nourished and sustained by goodness, corrected by goodness, and called by goodness to trust a future that rationally and experientially I cannot know. Indeed, I believe it is good that I do not know what lies ahead and therefore have to trust the goodness I've known in this world, and by grace was part of-an unending goodness of which we are all part.
—from "A Witness to Life, Death, and Then" by Carl Scovel


As I have moved through my sixties, I sometimes have said that aging is compulsory Buddhism. I am convinced Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was right: Everything flows and changes, and never stays. Even though aging has always invited my perpetual letting go, I have not lost myself completely in that tidal wave of memories. Nor have I relinquished all images of my limited future to the younger generation quite yet. I find I am still open to new and unexpected things, right around the next corner. I see my coming decades (should I be so fortunate as to live a long life like my grandparents) just as likely to be filled with possibilities as with limits; I see open doors as well as locked gates.

It's a path, remember, this aging, a path of spiritual exercises. It's not an inn, a terminal, a destination, or even a line to cross by a certain year so that you can then say, "Okay, now I am really old." My aching knees may not like the path metaphor. Nevertheless, the spiritual path of aging unfolds itself before me every day and helps me shed more and more illusions of attachment, control, and self-doting, which have marked earlier eras in my life.
—from "The Path" by Mark Belletini


Each of us in our lifetime climbs the mountain of human experience—our own and that of our race. When we reach the heights and see what is to be seen, we lie down on that mountain of human experience. The small measure of our dust adds to its height, whereby our peers and companions and those who come after us may see a small way farther than we. And that immortality! No soul that ever lived, however brief or however dim, is without its significance in the ongoing life of the universe.

Our faults and weaknesses, and we all have them, die with us; but our victories of character and spirit remain to bless all humanity forever. For if what a person has done is good, and if what a person has said is true, then that goodness and truth remain to bless all humanity forever.
—from "A Song in the Face of Death" by John Cummins

"It's not easy for ministers to express vulnerability. But that's exactly what all sixteen of them, as well as three laypeople, do in this remarkable book. Their reflections on aging and mortality are uniformly authentic, poignant and, most of all, wise."
—William F. Schulz, President, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

"I began reading this book wondering if it would work for an adult class about aging. It will. It more than will. But by the time I had finished, I was no longer scrutinizing the book's usefulness for others but savoring the companionship it offered to me-—companionship I'd never even known I was longing for until it was offered. How helpful to have trailblazers out ahead a bit, courageously navigating the landscape of aging with grace, humor, and integrity."
—Meg Riley, Senior Minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship

"This is it! This is the manual that we who are moving into our later years have been waiting for. These essays serve as a precious reminder that the process of growing old may be unstoppable, but the possibilities for spiritual deepening are limitless. I am certain that every reader will want to sit down and write thank-you notes to these authors for sharing the many personal stories and insights that yield a single truth: life may be finite, but hope is boundless. Let the aging process continue!"
—Lee Barker, President, Meadville Lombard Theological School

"Having recently crossed the threshold of 50, I avidly read these profound, funny, poignant and ordinary reflections on aging and the spirit. Kay Montgomery wanted to gather around her companions in the later stage of life's journey—and what fine company she has offered to us all. Reading these essays is like meeting one's elder, wiser self on the bridge of life's crossing."
—Sarah Lammert, Director of Ministries and Faith Development, Unitarian Universalist Association

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by CARL
on 10/24/2015
Meets me where I live.
I have reviewed many little books for our bookcart over the years.  Most are nice, but don't hit you where you live.  This book is outstanding.  The essays all seem to meet me where I am, that is a bit after 70.  Each is written by a different author and provides a unique view.  Each seems to be deeply reflective and personal.  They show the wisdom of years.  This is not a "quick read," but more like Forrest Gump's infamous box of chocolates.
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