November Reading for Elders Lunch: Legacy

At our monthly Elders Lunch (held on zoom the second Friday each month from 12 noon to 1 p.m.), Rev. Sharon shares a reading from the book In Later Years: Finding Meaning and Spirit in Aging by Bruce T. Marshall, a Unitarian Universalist minister. The following are excerpts shared at our November Elders Lunch. The theme of this chapter is “Legacy.”

During our final years, we review our lives. What have I done? What am I proud of? What do I regret? What has my life meant? How has it mattered? What lessons are contained in this life I have lived? And what might I pass on to the next generations? We find meaning by considering both our own lives and how we might contribute to the quality of life for those who follow. (p. 143)

Life is ambiguous and can be messy. Looking back, most of us find a mix of good and bad: that which was hurtful but also occasions of healing, causes and effects we now understand and those that will never make sense, achievements we are proud of and things that didn’t turn out so well. Nobody’s life proceeds exactly as they would wish. Yet what seems to matter is not that everything we do is successful but that there are patterns of meaning linking the events of our lives. Put another way, we look for the story that our life has told—the stories that our life continues to tell (pp. 145-146)

But in this process of reviewing our lives there is also a factor of discovery; we set out to find the meanings that have motivated us and guided us into the future.(p. 147)

Diana W noted that she has developed a sense of perspective that she didn’t have when she was younger….”I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, I don’t have to wear a brave face all the time. I can show my vulnerable side and it’s OK.”…Perhaps with age, we can let go of some of the expectations we put upon ourselves about who we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to appear. Instead, we can let ourselves be who we are, without pretending. (p. 158)

The chapter talks about different ways of reviewing your life, making sense of what you’ve lived;

  • Writing down stories or essays
  • Compiling photos into albums sorted by dates, people, or eras
  • Talking with friends and family members
  • Writing essays to capture topics you’re knowledgeable about

Reflection questions / Writing prompts:

  • Tell about an experience that helped you understand something about who you are or who you aspire to be.
  • Do you think you have gained wisdom in your years of living? How would you express what you have learned?
  • What have you learned that you would like to offer to a younger generation?
  • How do you feel yourself connected to a greater story about your family or people?