by Susan Freiband
The Gift of Years. These words form the title of a book by Joan Chittister (Bluebridge, 2008. 222p.). The subtitle is “Growing Older Gracefully.” The book focuses on mental and spiritual aspects or dimensions of growing older, embracing the blessings of this time and overcoming the burdens of it.
Life, according to the author, is a mosaic made up of multiple pieces, each full in itself, and a stepping stone on the way to the next. Each period of life has its own purpose. The gift of the older years, the capstone years, is becoming more fully alive than ever.
The book is made up of forty short sections or essays. Each deals with a theme or idea, such as regret, fear, joy, transformation, adjustment, freedom, solitude, forgiveness, and faith. In the section on wisdom the author writes that “wisdom is what lasts after an experience ends” (p. 124). Elders have lived through both good and bad decisions of the past, and have the wisdom “to evaluate present choices from the perspective of history” (p. 126). Therefore it’s important for elders to immerse themselves in the issues of the time, becoming prophets of a society, its compass, its truth tellers (p. 127)
In the section on spirituality, the author stresses that as we get older we engage with life at a different level, from different motives, with a more focused heart (p. 179). It is the period of spiritual reflection and renewal, of asking ourselves about the kind of person we have been becoming, of speaking our truths without needing to be right.
The book begins with a useful introduction, and ends with an afterword (“The Twilight Time”). It is an insightful, enriching collection of reflections from a celebrated and important spiritual teacher.