by Marjorie George
(I was fortunate to make a pilgrimage to England and Scotland this past summer. This reflection comes from two days spent at Canterbury.)
We arrived at Canterbury Cathedral in the afternoon later than we had planned, and Evening Prayer had already begun when I slipped onto a chair in the back row, trying to be unobtrusive. From where I sat I could not see the choir, but oh could I hear them. They were exquisite, especially the sopranos, whose voices floated heavenward on threads of silken grace. I assumed they were women’s voices, until the end of the service when the choir processed out right in front of me – with not a female among them. It was the pre-adolescent boys I had been hearing.
I learned later that there are 30 boys in the cathedral choir, the youngest of whom are eight years old. The summer that a boy turns 13 he must leave the choir, for his voice will soon change. His season as a boy soprano in the Cathedral Chorister has ended.
That’s how seasons are – they come and go; some do not return.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed a fine example of someone who didn’t want to accept that. It was part of a short news report about the rising use of testosterone among older men. Now don’t send me irate emails – I realize that low testosterone can be a medical condition requiring treatment. But the guy on the news report was in it for something else – he just didn’t like the idea of aging. He proudly showed the TV news reporter how he injected his thigh with testosterone every day. “Feel 20 years younger than I am,” he said. “I’m in my late fifties, and I can do everything a 30-year old can do.”
But my question is, why does he want to? I remember my thirties – kids going in 20 different directions, carpool, football games, school meetings, taking a turn in the church nursery. I remember the days fondly, but not wistfully. They were the season I was in, and I am grateful for that season; but I don’t want to go back to it. My season now is one of a slower pace, more time to spend with God, more time just enjoying my family, more appreciation for what I have and where I am. And, I have to say it, a little bit wiser than I was before ‘cause I’ve been hanging around the world a little bit longer.
The pity would be if I denied my season. I have something to offer in my sixties that I did not have in my thirties. My mom had something to offer me in her nineties that she had garnered from living 30 years longer than I had. I have a friend whose baby finally slept through the night recently because my friend listened to the advice of an older woman.
Every season has its gifts – gifts that God gives us and gifts that we have to offer others. What if those young choristers at Canterbury Cathedral had withheld their gift because they knew it was only for a season and that season would end some day? What if they had never engaged that brief period in their lives – just five years – when they could offer that sweet sound wafting toward heaven? My life would have been the poorer for it. Probably theirs would have as well.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” says the psalmist (90:12) – all our days, I presume: the young ones and the middle ones and the ones enjoyed later in life.
Whatever season you and I are in just now, we would do well to live it to its fullest, for it has much to teach us – as have all the seasons that have come before and as do all the seasons yet to come.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.