Last night, Jason returned to camp after working for a few days, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I left William in Jason’s hands and went to the evening service on my own. I was feeling tense and frustrated after a few days of parenting William, and it was bliss to sit and unwind for a few hours without the ever-present demands of my four year old.
During the worship, I saw a family in a pew a few rows up whom I remembered from my earliest days at this camp. The parents had a preschool age daughter when I first met them, and twin sons who were about a year old. I was a teenager, and to get out of the evening services, I would babysit in the nursery with my best friend. I fell madly in love with these twin babies, and befriended their parents, and over the course of the years I’ve attended this camp, I’ve watched them grow up, and now those twins are in university.
Last night, I saw the mom and the dad, sitting next to their daughter and her new husband. I watched the dad lean over and whisper something to the daughter, who giggled at him, and he laughed back, and at one point he put his arm around her and gave her shoulders a big squeeze. I thought about her as a preschooler, younger than William is now, and how fast the time has gone to get her to this point, where she is a newlywed, on the cusp of starting her own family.
For some reason, it didn’t bother me to consider how fast she grew up, and to notice how grey the dad’s hair is now, and how many more lines are on his face. Tears welled up for me as I watched the happy scene between a grown daughter and her loving father. Another stitch formed in the hole in my heart, closing the gap between what I wanted from my dad as a child and what he was able to give me.
I could visualize Ava and Jason in about fifteen years, and for the first time, the idea of ageing didn’t seem so foreign and terrifying. I saw it as a natural process, and it served as a glimpse into what we are trying to build as a family; a road map for the untraveled terrain ahead.
We can’t stop the process of growing older. It is happening to each of us, every single day. There is not much point in panicking about what is not under our control. The camp speaker talked about healing last night – God’s ability to touch our bodies and fix physical, emotional or spiritual damages. He said, “God doesn’t always choose to heal us in this life, but death is a healing, so one day we will all be healed.”
I had never heard this as a concept before, and it provided some comfort as I walk the road of my late thirties and approach my forties. I don’t like that I have become afraid of death. My life is going well, full of love and friends and many good things, and I find I want to stay here, in this moment, in this time. Death is a place which no one living can fully understand, and mystery is challenging for me. I prefer to know instead of speculate. Great faith is required to embrace and accept the idea of dying.
I’m not at peace with all of it yet, but seeing death as a healing for all that is broken within our human condition is a good starting point. So is watching a family who I loved when they were at the stage I am at now; an experience foreign to me as a fifteen year old but now well-worn in, like an old pair of jeans. It was good to see them last night, and visualize that coming stage, and realize that it’s not scary at all. If we invest all that we can into our kids now, the fruit will flower when they are adolescents and young adults, and we can hopefully enjoy the same sweet, easy relationship for the rest of our lives.