Being old is such a new experience. Maybe that’s a statement of the obvious. I found myself likening it the other day to adolescence. Things are changing and one is worried about what comes next. Yes I do have a religious faith, the Christian faith.But with this new adolescence comes a new understanding, of everything which brought me to this moment.
Yesterday afternoon, on a still grey Sunday, from my easy chair I looked out at the empty road. Beyond the window, the fat, red Rugosa rosehips in our garden were ripe and going soft. As I looked, I saw the quiet, autumn Sunday afternoons of all the generations I have known, the coal fires in their kitchen living rooms, their chilly parlours, reserved for funerals and other formal moments. Pale blue best china on display. Immaculate. Unused. Some Highland scene in a framed picture above the empty grate.
I saw their back gardens, the neat rows of potatoes and beans. And the sepia portrait photographs, in those parlours, of soldiers in uniform, always a poignant memory in November. On this quiet Sunday afternoon, close to twilight.
I heard their pianos, some of them with bronze candlesticks and Victorian ballads , and hymns, and family singsongs and, at Christmas, Uncle Fred’s brilliant banjo accompaniment to Uncle Sam’s piano: all the old favourites, ‘She was a sweet little dicky bird’, ‘Just a Song at Twilight’, ‘Some day my prince will come’. And later, ‘Roll out the barrel’, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’.
And I saw, on this grey, quiet, November afternoon, all those people, known and unknown to me, with their striving, their hopes and decency. Above all, decency. Doing their best. Making the best of things.
And I trust that in that great mix of success and failure which is the story of all of us – as Mother Julian said – that in Christ, ‘all mannner of thing shall be well’.