Winter Is Going To Be Here Before You Know It.

By Robert Kirwan

I am now going through that transitional stage of life where one moves from being a healthy, robust middle aged person into what is commonly referred to as the “senior” years. Strange as it may sound, I never gave much thought about how I would feel once it was time for me to enter the ranks of “seniors”. When I was younger I thought that a senior was anyone over the age of 50. But with each passing birthday, I began to think of seniors as being much older than that.

Now, as I approach the age of 60, I am discovering that being a “senior adult” is more of a “state of mind” or a “state of health” than just counting the number of candles on your birthday cake. For example, I see a lot of people in their 40’s who I would define as being more senior than I am right now if you consider their physical and emotional health. And I also see a lot of people in their 70’s who one would never know they are “senior” unless you knew their age.
I’ll never forget a message that was given to me by an older gentleman I once knew about 30 years ago. I was still a young teacher at the beginning of my career and he definitely was well into his “senior” years. At that time of my life my wife and were raising three young children, playing badminton three times a week and were always on the go with hockey, baseball and soccer. We never gave a moment’s thought to how old we were. We just went on and on with energy to spare. I can’t recall how I came to know this older man, but one day we sat down to have a coffee and he gave me the following message. It was a message that didn’t have a lot of impact on me at the time. It just seemed like an “old man” doing some reflective thinking about life.  But now that I am a grandfather and I am about to enter my “senior stage of life”, his words are beginning to make sense.
The man started out with a profound statement when he said, “You know, Bob, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.  It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate.  And yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams, but, here it is. The winter of my life and it caught me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my babies go? And where did my youth go?”
He continued to reflect, “I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like. But, here it is. My friends are retired and really getting gray. They move slower and I see an older person when I look in the mirror now. Lots of my friends are in better shape than me, but I see the great change.
They are not like the friends that I remember who were young and vibrant, but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.”
“Each day now, I find that just taking a shower is a real target for the day!  And taking a nap is not a treat anymore; it’s mandatory!  Because if I don’t, on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!”
“And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do the things I wish I had done but never did!! At least I know, that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, when it’s over, it’s over.”
“Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done; things I should have done; but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done.  It’s all in a lifetime.”
The older gentleman then proceeded to give me some advice I have never forgotten, “Bob, you’re not even close to your winter yet, but let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly.  So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!”
As we finished off our coffee, he looked at me very seriously and proceeded to pour out his wisdom. I listened carefully to his final words. “Make no mistake. There is no promise that you will ever see all the seasons of your life, so live well for today. Say all the things you want your loved ones to remember. Hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things you have done for them in all the years past! Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who follow after you. Make it a fantastic one.”
He gave me that message 30 years ago. I don’t think my winter has come yet, but I now understand what he meant when he said that “there is no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life.” I have known far too many people who died before their winter had arrived. I also know many people for whom winter came on suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. As for myself, I know that my winter is certainly much closer that it was the day I had coffee with this wise old man. But there are many more things I want to accomplish in my life, so I intend to heed the man’s advice well. No more putting things off. No more regrets. No more fear! Life goes by quickly and I am not sure when my winter will arrive.
Unfortunately, that older gentleman’s winter ended shortly after he talked to me, but he certainly left an impression on me that has lasted a lifetime.
Life is a gift and I do not intend to waste it.
Have a good week!