One of the strange and wonderful features of my job as a minister is that I get to be a confidant and advisor to people at all stages of life. I’ve worked with people who are double and even triple my age. Experience like this is rare; our economic structure and workforce are stratified, and most people are employed within their own demographics. But because I’m a minister in a mainline denomination with an aging base, the people I primarily interact with are over the age of 60. I came into my job assuming that I, a Korean-American woman in my mid-30s, would not be able to connect with these people — they’re from a completely different racial and cultural background than me. It did not take long for me to discover how very wrong I was.
The same woman who told me she wasn’t bothered by her aging appearance also shared that she wasn’t afraid of death but of dying. I found this to be a profound distinction. She believed in an afterlife, as one might expect given that she belongs to a church. She felt sure that she would, in one way or another, be well taken care of after her time here came to an end. She is still very physically and mentally healthy, so it was that final leg of her journey that worried her. Would she be restricted to a hospital bed, just a mess of tubes and needles? Would she still recognize family and friends? Would she be in constant pain? Being old didn’t bother her until it affected the quality of her life in an incredibly detrimental way. In fact, being old, she shared, brought a lot of advantages: more time, more perspective, less hustling to be the best and most successful, and an urgency to strengthen the important relationships in her life.
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