“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.”
(Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 73)
Summer comes both too soon and too late. In my childhood, summer came too late. Always anxious for the end of the school year, I savored the beginning of long days of leisure, until less than half way through the summer they became too long and too leisurely, leaving me longing for school again. But now, summer comes too soon, signaling with it too many changes in the ones I love and in myself. This past week, each of our grandchildren strode past a new milestone and I realized somewhat helplessly that this will be a summer of tremendous change for these precious ones. They are taller, smarter, wiser, and nearer maturity than ever before. Summer forms a rite of passage, movement from not only one grade to another, but an exchanging of innocence for a lesser amount of naïveté.
When you’re getting old as I am, summer always comes too soon. No longer a rite de passage, it morphs into a time of remembering and for realizing that the time for remembering will all too quickly fade away. What does one have as the years diminish? We’re left with memories, some good and some bad, and with other things that can’t be fully recalled– experiences of which the details are gone but the vague recollection brings either warming joy or chilling tear. One might call this bittersweet–old enough to nod to life out of self-assurance, yet no longer young enough to be excited about the advancing of age. We have no taste for admitting that a chasm of aging lies ahead of us, let alone exploring its significance in our lives. This is a tragedy because aging is a defining spiritual issue, and what I strongly suspect is that this uncharted territory of aging holds far more potential than most are transparent enough to benefit from. The process, if we explore it honestly, may actually hold spiritual gifts that accompany the aging process itself. There are spiritual treasures here that we must explore. Remembering is the threshold to becoming.