Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Turning Fifty

Being born on St. Patrick's Day, my parents had to at least consider the possibility of naming me Patrick. Instead, they opted to name me after my father. Not a "junior" - he was E. Richard and I'm Richard M.- but close enough.

I turned 21 in Dublin. My English major friends and I planned an official James Joyce pub-crawl. (Well, I'm not sure what made it official other than that we dubbed it so.) It was pretty cool, although I'm a bit fuzzy on the details. I turned 25 in New Orleans, which was also a fun St. Patty's  Day venue.

My father died at 37. It's hard to explain, but turning 37, and then 38, and then 40 were all a very big deal for me. When I turned 40, I invited a whole bunch of friends to our house and we had a bash. I guess because at some subconscious (or maybe even conscious) level I had worried that I might not ever make it that far and it felt like a milestone.

Liturgically, my birthday falls in Lent, which begins with the reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. That has never frightened me, not even when I was turning 37, or 38, or 40. But as the birthdays roll along, it just rings truer and truer for me. I'm a pastor and I see death up close. Not everyone lives into their 80s or 90s so you have to take it one day at a time, and savor it all as incredible gift. Knowing we will all die and that I will too does not frighten me; it just makes me want to to live more fully in the present moment.

I know that for many people turning 50 is a big deal. But it doesn't feel that way for me. One of my "way older" friends told me she didn't really start to feel comfortable in her own skin until about 50. I don't know if I'd say it quite that way, but I can surely say I feel more at peace with who I am (and who I am not) at 50 than I did at 40 or 30 or 20.

So today as the sun comes up I am feeling fairly philosophical and introspective, and definitely grateful for the many blessings of my life. My work day will include two liturgies among a people for whom I have great affection, a meeting with a young couple preparing for marriage, anointing a beloved parishioner with his family gathered at his bedside, followed by an adult confirmation class. A "normal" day in the life of a country parson. I can't think of a better way to mark a half-century.

The year ahead will be one of changes: a new job, a new home, and a new chapter with Hathy as our nest has emptied. Bring it on! Life is good. 

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