There are a number of cultural milestones we embrace in the West to signify we are adults or at least moving in that direction. Sixteen gets us a driver’s license, 18 is the time of graduating from high school and obtaining voting privileges. At 21 we are legally able to drink, at 22 or so to graduate from college and maybe in those years between 25 and 35 years of age we might land a “real” job, get married, have children and secure a mortgage.
But it is within the last few years I’ve learned that much of being all grown up is when your parents die, and by the fact of life, you become next in line on that lonesome trail.
My mother died 1 ½ years ago, my father-in-law in April 2012. My wife and I were with them in the long physical struggle of leaving this world. These are the grown up moments when the course of existence places one in the middle of ongoing life and the realities of death. A foot in both worlds, so to speak. A foot planted in the ongoing tasks of working, paying bills, being involved in one’s community, and the other foot lodged in the decisions of end of life health care, funeral preparations, and watching loved ones exhale the last gulp of earthly air. Being grown up comes at that moment, I think. It was a time when routine activities of earthly existence continued flowing ahead, while the demands and necessary assignments of preparing to die get intermingled. It is in these days that we are grown up—balancing, like the scale of Blind Justice, the now and not yet; what is and what is yet to come; with an energy that is a mixture of human sweat and fortitude with an element of divine grace and view of eternity.
I am grown up, as is my wife. We can now accept our place as adults. Maybe there should be an ID Card for this transformation just as there are for all the earlier life milestones we celebrate. Maybe a card to carry in our wallets and share with people when they ask to see some form of identification; a card identifying who we have become. When we share that ID card, they will know that we have weathered a great deal in life and realize that the lines on our faces or our graying hair match the events that drew and colored them.
Blessings to you all as you travel toward the grown up phase of life. May you acknowledge its difficulties, wisdom, endurance, commitments, and realities that come with age.
Grace and peace to you.