The Three Chapters Of Life
The Three Chapters Of Life2 mins 407 2 mins 407
Since I’m entering the third phase of this miracle called life, it’s a cinch to talk about the other two.
The first, full of wonder and absorbing all that surrounds slowly, promotes dreams, fantasies, and anticipation. The older one becomes, this period of life is recalled in both happy and sad ways. An eighty-year-old may not remember what she ate last night but can quickly recall a childhood experience, full of color and detail. Circling life is indeed true. All those former years are collected and stored in aging minds as well as sometimes refined with a different ending. The mind may collect but the heart remembers and cherishes each of life’s chapters.
One author divided his wonderful book on aging into three chapters, each beginning with the letter “L,” Lasting, Leaving, Left. James Hillman’s, “The Force of Character” is worthy of reading for someone in life’s third stage. Add a fourth “L” and it summarizes us all in one word, “Life.”
Life’s second stage is full of life’s stuff - education, career, friends, family - while the first and third ponders the mysteries without solving a single one of them. A two-year-old will haunt you by repeatedly saying to a parent, “Why” to your every valid explanation. Add seventy-eight years and that “Why” question returns will a fuller force.
Yet even in life’s second stage, there can be thoughtful reflections, sometimes prompted by the certainty of death. “When Breath Becomes Air” is a profound summary of his life by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who dies at age 37. Included in this unusual predicament is Julie Yip-Williams’ “The Unwinding of the Miracle,” who lovingly writes about her short life ending at 42, leaving two young children. Both books seem to eloquently combine all three of life’s stages with a sincere, keen eye on what lies ahead.
Well, that’s my submission of three words that mean everything to everyone at each of life’s stages. We cherish our now because we are always conscious of our past with a glancing, if not direct eye contact, with what lies ever-mysteriously beyond us.