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Growing Old Gracefully

I’ve been grateful for one man who has been something of a distant tutor when it comes to growing old gracefully. His real name is James, but for years...

by Jeff Lucas on November 22, 2021

Growing Old Gracefully

It was one of those life skills that I never learned at school. 

School told me how many wives Henry the 8th had, helped me glean information about Australia’s mining industry, and even taught me the French word for ‘station’, but nobody told me anything about something you don’t believe will ever happen when you’re young, yet it happens to every human on the planet. 

How to Grow Old Gracefully

Lately, I’ve been lamenting this glaring gap in my education, because despite my insistence that there’s been a terrible mistake on my birth certificate, old is what I’m getting. Others are noticing, and have been observing it for a while. 

I was offered over-60s discounts in restaurants before I turned 50. And then a repairman came to our house, met me, and then later met my wife Kay, and asked her to pass on a message to her dad, referring to me. My lovely and apparently youthful wife didn’t correct the misunderstanding, but called up the stairs….Daaaad…..

I walked into a clothing store, one usually frequented by younger men. As I pushed the door and stepped in, the pre-adolescent chap with skinny jeans that were probably impeding his circulation looked up, and says, "Hello sir. Looking for something a little more trendy, are we"?

And just recently, when Kay and I checked in at the airport, a grinning airline person made the comment: ‘So, traveling with your daughter today, are you?’. Hilarious. Not. 

So, finally conceding that the clock is not just ticking, but racing, I’ve been grateful for one man who has been something of a distant tutor when it comes to growing old gracefully.  His real name is James, but for years, everyone calls him Shotgun; I have no idea why. He lives in Oklahoma, which may provide a clue.

Shotgun is 93 years old now and has lived most of his life without wanting Jesus to be part of it. When he was twelve, he went to a church and told God that if he was real, then he’d like to meet him. Nothing happened. He describes the experience as being one of the most disappointing of his life. He walked out and decided to ignore God for the rest of his days, and lived the rough and ready life of an oil worker, often drunk, getting into fights, and occasionally thrown in jail. 

It went on that way for some seven decades. His wife was the love of his life, and so, when they were both in their mid-eighties, she announced that she thought they should go to church. He agreed. A short while later, Shotgun’s wife became very ill. He was granted a rare privilege: one night, they lay awake for most of the night, reminiscing, reviewing their lives together, whispering words of love. In their morning, he awoke to find that she was not in their bed. She had got up, made her way to their sitting room, where he found her, sitting up against the couch, quite dead. Six months later, Shotgun walked into his pastor’s study, and said, ‘I’m ready”. They knelt down together on the floor, and Shotgun asked Jesus if they could reconnect. 

Reconnect they have, and the result is beautiful.

I am going to Oklahoma again soon and looking forward to it, but it won’t be the same, because Shotgun won’t be there. He has business elsewhere, and I’ll miss him. He’s shown me what growing old, not just graciously, but beautifully, can look like. 

Whenever we’ve met, he has always brought cheer to my soul. Always tearful and tender, everyone in his church loves him, and for good reason. He arrives for services early and makes them coffee. He’s still full of questions and shows the rare ability for a man of his age to be able to grow and change. But what’s most noticeable about Shotgun is his kindness, which is just quietly outstanding. In short, he cares. Encourages. Serves. Learns. 

But this week, he’s away on other business, in heaven. I just got news today that he has passed, but I talk about him in the present tense, because Shotgun still is. He’s absent from the body, present with the Lord, and if there’s coffee in heaven (which surely there must be), he’s probably serving it right now, along with that warm, winsome smile. I’ll miss that smile, but not for too long. 

Good night, Shotgun. See you in the morning. Resurrection morning. 

And thanks for being a great tutor. May I grow older with grace as you did. 

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Tags: growing old gracefully, how to grow old gracefully, prayer for growing old gracefully

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