Turning 58

I turn 58 tomorrow, the 16th of October.

There was a time in my life when I thought I would not make it to 50. I was 16 when my dad passed away in front of my very eyes from a heart attack. Some days change you forever. I can still remember every detail of that morning like it happened yesterday.

In 2014, the year I turned 50, I landed in the coronary care unit (CCU) of St. Luke’s Hospital a few days before Valentine’s Day. My cardiologist suspected a heart attack. Imagine that. My thought bubble at that time: “Lord, am I going to go the same way my dad did?” After a battery of tests over a period of 48 hours in the CCU thankfully, the suspected heart attack was a fluke. To this day, I still have no plausible explanation for that medical emergency except to tell you that perhaps he wounds from childhood loss cut deep. The heart never forgets, and the subconscious mind is a very powerful thing.

For me, it was a second life. I was at the Ontario airport counting the hours until I turned 50. Fifty was the magic bullet, all my fears disappeared.

ONE of the major learning transitions in life is learning to find joy and contentment with simple things.

Now, I am almost nine years older than my father when he died. Every year that has been given to me after the age of 50, I have considered immense grace. I have many dear friends who did not make it this far. When I think of them, and of what they might have been able to accomplish, had they lived, I am saddened and humbled.

When each birthday comes, I cannot help but have intimations of my mortality. There is much grace and gratitude but also thoughts of how much longer I have left.

Early loss impacts the lens through which you view birthdays. Author Mary Gordon said it best, “A fatherless girl thinks all things possible, and nothing is safe.” That’s something I’ve had to live and grapple with through most of my life.

I think about my life today, and I have to say that finally, there is more of that safety than fear. Now, I live the word contentment. Two and a half years of the pandemic, teaches you a lot about yourself. You come out of it either more fearful, or more fearless.

At 58, I no longer have any room for drama or despair. I’ve learned to say what’s in my heart. I no longer allow myself to be pushed around by anyone. I keep a small and tight circle of friends and family close to my heart. I know who my tribe is. I know who I can depend on. I am grateful to be loved, and for the love I have in my life now.

I am learning to become more radical about letting go of the material things that weigh me down. My goal on the road to 60 is to pare down my life to what is really important and what will continue to give me joy as I live out my senior years.

On my night table is the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I’ve had this book for about four years now and last week I finally picked it up. I counted the many times I have moved in my life from one country to another, from one home to another and the total was eight. The most important lesson I have learned from all those moves, and continue to learn now as I’m about to embark on another major transition is this: We only need so little to find joy and contentment. The second lesson is that we must not burden the next generation with our clutter and the things we think are precious to us. Magnusson puts it perfectly when she says, “Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish — or be able — to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself. No matter how much they love you, don’t leave this burden to them.” Surround yourself only with the things that give you joy when you look at them. Keep your wardrobe to a functional and classic minimum.

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy nice things. I like having them around because they give me some degree of comfort. I still struggle with letting go of my books, but I am slowly getting there. My goal is to no longer be weighed down by the unnecessary so that I can have more time to enjoy the people and experiences that matter. I also believe that is best to do this paring down now while I am still young and strong, and have clarity of mind. The next two years for me will be a season of letting go of much of the material stuff I have accumulated through the years. To this Magnusson says, “You can always hope and wait for someone to want something in your home, but you cannot wait forever, and sometimes you must give cherished things away with the wish that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”

I am beyond grateful to make it to 58, and for all His blessings thus far. Onward now to 59 and beyond. Blessings to you all.

I would love to hear from you! Email me at storiesbykate@gmail.com

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