Reflections on another birthday

David Epps's picture

Last Monday night at church, I asked one of our little girls how old she was. She grinned and held up six fingers.

I said to her, “Well, tomorrow I will be this many,” and I kept flashing fingers until they added up to 62.

With very wide eyes, she asked, “Did you see dinosaurs when you were little?”

In 1968, the movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” hit the screens. I was 17 years old. A friend and I began to calculate how old we would be in 2001 and concluded that we would be nearly dead. We would be 50. My perspective has changed a bit since then.

For one thing, we are not nearly as scientifically advanced in the area of space travel as the movie speculated. And for another, I am not nearly dead. Well, at least I hope I am not ... one really never knows how close that may be.

I don’t mind being 62. I mean, given a choice and, if I could keep the knowledge I now have, I would opt to be younger. Most people would. But as far as I can tell, there is the prospect of a lot of living left to do.

When I was 17, it was hard to imagine that I would be a father. The thoughts of being a grandfather never crossed my mind and, yet, here I am with 11 grandchildren, the oldest of which celebrated her own birthday yesterday.

She turned 18 and will graduate from East Coweta High School in a few months. Another, a grandson, will graduate next year and on it will go. I plan to be around to see them all finish school and begin their lives as adults.

When I was younger, I had dreams of accomplishment and made plans to leave a great legacy. Now, as an older person, I realize that any lasting legacy of any value will be found in relationships and the influence I have deposited in my children, my grandchildren, and others I have been privileged to know.

I do have some things I want to do in the coming years. I have a “bucket list,” a list of things to do before I kick the bucket.

One of the things on my list was to take a motorcycle course. At age 59, I did just that. Another was to buy a motorcycle. I did that too. In the last two and a half years I have put some 24,000 miles on my Harley and the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it years earlier.

I wanted to take a Caribbean cruise. Going to do that in May. I would like to go to Scotland, England, perhaps Rome, and, oddly, I would like to go to Cuba and Vietnam. I want to skydive at least once. I might take up karate again — or boxing.

And, in the words of the Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” I want to be able to say, “And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,” to the people who mean the most to me. I want to live in and relish the moment and not “just run toward death,” as someone once said.

I do not imagine that I will ever truly retire, though I have discovered that many of my high school classmates have already done just that. The economy dictates that I probably will not, but even so, I want to be active and to do something meaningful until the end of my days.

As Pastor Edward Dana, a friend and mentor from the early 1980s, said to me once, “I want to burn out rather than rust out.”

Sometimes, I have to admit, I wonder if I am relevant in a culture that is frantically youth obsessed. I am, after all, an AARP member, and I now qualify for nearly every senior discount. Would it be better to just step aside and get out of the way?

Yet, there is still the sense of a calling, a duty, a responsibility.

And, besides, I find life exciting! There’s more to see, to do, to experience, to share! There’s more of life to be lived! As poet Robert Frost wrote,
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

And, no, I didn’t see any dinosaurs when I was little.

 [David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]