‘The second half of life’
My recent 75th birthday led me to reflecting once more about my own journey through “the second half of life.”
What is the second half of life, and how is it a journey?
I first encountered the concept from OMI spiritual writer Fr. Ronald Rolheiser—in a 2003 article in his website www.ronrolheiser.com.
In that article, Father Rolheiser speaks about life having two halves, both of them separate journeys. But unlike the first—which is an outward journey in a search for identity, the acquisition of material wealth, a definition of one’s role in life, and raising a family—the second is more of an inward journey. It is a journey to wholeness, a deeper engagement with those aspects of life that we tended to neglect in our earlier years. It is about completing unfinished business and preparing to bring our earthly existence to fruition. It is essentially the journey home toward the Father.
To make this journey home, however, Father Rolheiser says, “First, we have to shed many of the things that we legitimately acquired and attached ourselves to during the first-half of life.”
He is actually speaking about letting go. We must let go of, and detach ourselves from, our wounds and anger. Why? Because we all get wounded in the first half of life and then harbor a lot of ill feelings and anger deep within our souls.
He says: “The foremost spiritual task of the second half of life is to forgive—others, ourselves, life, God. We all end mid-life wounded and not having exactly the life we dreamed. There’s a disappointment and anger inside every one of us, and unless we find it in ourselves to forgive, we will die bitter, unready for the heavenly banquet.”
I have had my share of wounds that cut deeply into my psyche and rendered me broken to the point of being immobile, unable to be my own self for years. But thanks to God’s grace, I found it in my self to forgive. Now I am whole once more. And like the Bread that was broken and given, I have since given myself to many who I hope have found their life’s meaning in my giving.
“Second,” he proceeds, we need to detach ourselves from the need to possess, to achieve, and to be the center of attention. The task of the second-half of life is to become the quiet, blessing grandparent who no longer needs to be the center of attention but is happy simply watching the young grow and enjoy themselves.”
Lately I noticed that I have learned to reduce my wants and to distinguish them from my needs. I have truly “become the quiet, blessing grandparent” as I watch each of my four grandchildren develop into their own, individual, separate personalities.
Father Rolheiser continues: “Third, we need to learn how to say good-bye to the earth and our loved ones so that, just as in the strength of our youth we once gave our lives for those we love, we can now give our deaths to them, too, as a final gift.”
I have long been resigned to my death. I have survived a heart attack and coronary bypass surgery in 2007. And today I live each day as if it were my last to enjoy every moment.
“Fourth, we need to let go of sophistication so as to become simple ‘holy old fools’ whose only message is that God loves us.” Amen to that!
“Finally, we need, more and more, to immerse ourselves in the language of silence, the language of heaven. Meister Eckhart once said: ‘Nothing so much resembles God as silence.’ The task of mid-life is to begin to understand that and enter into that language.”
I have long learned that you can find God and He can speak to you only in silence.
Father Rolheiser concludes that this journey can be a painful one. He likens it to the Catholic doctrine of purgatory which “tells us that God’s eternal embrace can only become fully ecstatic once we’ve learned to let go.”
Purgatory or not, I know that it is still a pleasant journey for me because I know it is coming home to the embrace of my only true and loving Father.
Danilo G. Mendiola, 75, is retired from corporate work and now serves with his wife in the Marriage Prep Ministry of their parish in Quezon City.
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