Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi’s 1995 book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older, has proved so helpful to so many since then as to have become part of a movement across the county. It describes a process which might be described as occurring in three acts, based on the fact that while everyone ages, not everyone sages.
Act One: Deepening One’s Spirituality
Some might think this development is like the grandchild, when observing her grandmother reading the Bible more often, asked, ‘Nana, are you cramming for the finals?” Rather the Rabbi defines spirituality as ‘expanding one’s consciousness.” Certainly, anyone of any age who becomes increasingly aware of his or her awareness grows wiser.
Act Two: Preparing One’s Life Review
The Rabbi describes this part of the process by asking the question, ‘Have you been saved?’ By that he means doing so electronically – by writing your story, and/or reflections upon its meaning, then saving it on the computer or speaking it into a recorder, as part of your legacy.
Act Three: (in two scenes) Dealing with Life and Death Matters
The life scene has to do with taking care of your health and being realistic about your physical limitations. This attitude was suggested by a doctor who advised a newly retired couple, ‘Get your travels done before you turn eighty, because then the wheels begin to come off!”
The death scene is suggested by the title of Margie Jenkins’ book, You Only Die Once. That fact suggests that we do what we can to spare our survivors unnecessary grief by having our affairs in order – from preparing a will, and perhaps a living will, to providing a list of those to be notified, with contact information, along with user name/passwords of agencies and businesses which need to notified.
Also it is fitting to prepare a draft of one’s own obituary, as a way of indicating what one would want to be remembered for. A written description of what Jenkins calls “your going away party,” i.e. your preferences for a memorial service’s participants and setting, as well as a reception afterwards, is in order.
Finally, Psalm 90, verse 12, sums up the sage-ing process as a whole, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Rich Thompson is a retired Presbyterian minister and past president of the Fort Collins Interfaith Council. He recently retired from the board of Faith Family Hospitality. He is married to Jane, a retired school librarian active in the League of Women Voters.