Reflections on Turning Seventy
May 29, 2014
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
I was not yet twenty when those words captivated me. I could not imagine ever turning 70, and here I am, with many less than fifty more springs left, still trying to seize the day, every day, because life, even with all its sorrows, frustrations, and difficulties, is a wonderful gift for which I am grateful.
I was born exactly one week before, D-Day, the Sixth of June, 1944, the day of the Normandy Invasion, when so many soldiers lost their lives. My mother, too, almost lost her life following my birth, and was saved only because following the success of the invasion, penicillin was released for civilian use for the first time.
I was looked after in these early weeks by my father’s sister, Aunt Marion. My mother remained hospitalized for two months following my birth. She was almost 37 when I, her first child, was born. She was a career woman, a teacher, and I don’t think she quite knew what to do with me. Although we loved each other very much, I spent weeks at a time throughout my childhood with her sisters, my aunts Viola and Elsie, who were also like mothers to me.
I’ve had a life filled with adventures, friends, and love, as well as sorrows and disappointments. It took me a long time to find true love, but in 1977, when Ed Philips walked into my life and asked me to marry him, I knew I had found “the one.” I wrote in my journal on the night I first met him, before we’d even gone out on a date, “If God intends for me to marry Ed Philips, so be it.”
Weeks later, on both of our birthdays, May 29, 1977, Ed and I were married, a happy marriage that was to last exactly 30 years. With Ed, came a whole family of mostly grown children, who have also become my family. Then we had two children together, Jesse and Psyche.
I think I did not fully appreciate how much Ed loved me until I lost him, and then found love again, as he had – to my great amazement and surprise. Four brief years after Ed’s death, Kent and I were married, so I have been lucky in love twice. When Kent came into my life, I suddenly felt like I was sixteen going on 70, a geriatric teenager in love.
There is a line in a poem by William Butler Yeats, “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.” I have been blessed to have had not one, but two men who loved the “pilgrim soul” in me as my pilgrimage through life continues. My grandfather, Pastor John Hendrickson, an immigrant from Sweden, as were all my grandparents, and who died in 1915, almost 30 years before I was born, had a favorite Swedish hymn, “Pilgrimen’s Song” that was sung at his funeral. Perhaps being a pilgrim is in my genes.
Now, I begin my eighth decade, still in good health and with a wonderful companion with whom to share my joys and sorrows and the plumbing problems of this old house. To paraphrase A.E. Housman, “About the woodlands let us go, to see the cherries hung with snow,” and now in May to see and eat, the juicy cherries, red and sweet.” For of our three score years and ten, seventy will not come again. Today, for each of us, is all we have.
Thank you for sharing this day with me.
Now, before we eat, let’s offer a prayer of thanks to God. Thank you God for most this amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, for the gifts of life and love, the fellowship of friends and family, and the food we eat. We remember those who have gone before us during this Memorial week, and ask for blessings and guidance as we each continue on our pilgrimages through life. We pray to God. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.