I fit right in with those old people. I’m like a 70-year-old in the body of an almost-23-year-old. You see, I like puzzles. I did all of the blue sky in the puzzle the seniors were working on, which is heroic, because no one wants to do that part. But I love the challenge. You have to look at the shape of the piece, and differentiate between subtle shades of blue. I also love birds (as you may have noticed), and I was lucky enough to have several conversations with women who were old and wise enough to know, as I do, that no, those little ducks are not baby loons – they’re grebes. No, that’s not a wild canary, it’s a goldfinch. Furthermore, I have recently discovered a special place in my heart for crokinole, as documented in these pictures. Unfortunately, the seniors beat Claire and I every time, doubling and tripling our score. They had mad skills. Especially 86-year-old Florence, my favorite, who laughed all the time, had crazy facial expressions (see picture) and made sarcastic remarks every time Claire or I messed up a shot.
The week was great. Not only are these adults our most well-behaved campers of the summer, they’re also the most appreciative. They were such a pleasure to serve, because you knew how grateful they’d be. They went out of their way to encourage us as staff, and to let us know they’d be praying for us over the summer, and to remind us that although we’ll be weary sometimes, with God’s strength, we’ll rise up like eagles. They laughed together, hard and long, they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, and they deeply savored every sunrise, every chance to go out on the lake, every meal. What’s more, they enjoyed talking to us “young folk”! They teased us and hugged us and took genuine interest in us. They said we invigorated them. It made me wish I had more chances to interact with seniors at church – more multigenerational gatherings. We would all benefit.
I’ve been reading slowly through the psalms, and this week I came upon Psalm 71. “Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” It’s a psalm written by an old person! How serendipitous. Maybe God was trying to tell me something. I decided to start asking the seniors about their lives, and listening closely, to give them a chance to “proclaim God’s power to the new generation”. Mostly, they told me about things God had brought them through – one woman’s mother died when she was twelve, and it was years before God broke through the shell of anger this had produced in her. Another one’s granddaughter had recently been killed in a car accident. Still another had lived with her best friend and soulmate for 33 years; these two unmarried women had worked together as church planters, planning to retire together in Saskatoon. Then just a couple years ago, her friend fell in love, married, and moved out, leaving her feeling abandoned and lost. All of them spoke easily and eagerly about God’s power at work, comforting and strengthening them in these losses. I read in psalm 71: “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” Such confidence, from seeing God at work through their pain for so many years, seeing His faithfulness proved over and over… that’s definitely something I can aspire to. I want to be like them, “bearing fruit to a ripe old age,” like another of my favorite psalms says.
Sometimes God seems to feel the need to hammer things into my head repeatedly, and this “bearing fruit to a ripe old age” thing was no exception. I drove the seniors back to Saskatoon yesterday, and today, I attended the funeral of my friend Arwen’s grandfather. It’s always interesting, attending funerals of people you’ve never met… you meet them through the words of others. I would love to have known Blaine Holmlund. This was a man who trusted and served God until his last breath. Arwen’s dad ended his eulogy with the epitaph Ben Franklin wrote for himself. I liked it a lot. Here it is:
“The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer (like the cover of an old book, its contents worn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding) lies here, food for worms. Yet the work itself shall not be lost, for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by its Author.”
This week is ABI camp – Acquired Brain Injury camp. Thirteen kids with brain injuries will be our campers. We’ve been doing this camp for several years, and it’s always a memorable time. I'm sure I'll have many stories to share with you. I’m excited. As usual, I end with a picture of myself. Looking excited.
P.S. Chris, I miss you. Home isn't home without you. Don't fall in love with Halifax, ok?