Hide and seek was a game I enjoyed when I was young. Everyone hid while IT counted to 100 with eyes shut tight. Then it was time for IT to go seek. If one who had hidden could slip into home base undetected while IT was out seeking, the hider was safe. If IT quickly found you in your hiding place, you became IT for the next round. If IT never found you, you earned bragging rights in the neighborhood and a secret, safe hiding place for the future.
That was such fun to play when I was young – and the game seems fitting for youth. Early in life, we are constantly seeking new skills to master, new knowledge to prepare us for the future, new worlds to explore. Sometimes, as children, we also hide from parental expectations and adult assumptions. Yes, hide and seek seems like the appropriate game for the young.
However, day by day, I am learning that the aging play a different game: it’s called lost and found! It’s a group game because everybody has to play it. But it’s also a solitary game because each aging person is IT all the time and can ‘t pass off the game to someone else! It’s not as physically active as hide and seek but it is a constant emotional – and spiritual – strain.
The goal of the game is simple: to try to keep life in balance and useful. There is only one rule: for every loss experienced, find something new and positive in order to maintain the balance that makes life livable. For example, loss of energy as the years pile up can be balanced with more time to enjoy the beauties of nature during frequent rest periods. The loss of the smooth facial skin of youth can be balanced by cherishing the stories behind each and every wrinkle! Gray hairs can become a badge of wisdom; a slow, unsteady step can be celebrated by reflecting on the many rough trails those feet have carried you over.
Small losses like these are not too difficult to keep in balance as you find new perspectives from which to view your life. But when the losses are major – or come unexpectedly, like an avalanche – the game of Lost and Found becomes very difficult indeed! It’s no fun at all, and makes us feel like losers. But we have to play it, whether we like it or not!
Loss of eyesight, loss of hearing, loss of mobility or memory, loss of a spouse or the death of a loved one are the kinds of personal losses that knock us off balance in life. We can strive to establish a new balance, but loss of strength and energy make it hard not to just wallow in the tears of these losses.
So, that’s the stage in this Lost and Found game when it’s helpful to call upon a friend, a partner in play. Not just any friend, mind you, but a trusted Friend. One who knows all about loss and suffering, loneliness and fear but shares hope at every step as the journey grows darker.
Finally, we come to the point in life’s game when there’s nothing more to find, and the only thing left to lose is life. Then that Friend takes our hand and walks with us out of the life where everything’s been lost and into a new life where everything’s waiting to be found anew.
23June2017 - mshr