Ready, set, pause

Post 1/2023 Thursday 12 January . . . A new year has started. A new personal decade is underway. Anticipation rises anew for reconnection with friends in Cornwall, UK, next month. Amidst all that’s new, it’s good to pause in gratitude and reflection. We did just that on New Year’s Eve with four friends, Willard and Alice and Dean and Gwen.

Willard and Alice set the theme for the evening and prepared the meal. It was a leisurely pace from gathering, to appetizers, Greek lentil and spinach soup, sorbet palate cleanser, meat loaf and baked corn, broccoli cabbage salad, assorted cheeses and fresh fruit and crackers, mincemeat tarts, decaf coffee and a rose sparkling wine at midnight. The courses were interspersed with “Interludes,” a time for each person to share a poem, short prose or art with comment or question about it. The second part of each Interlude was “A brief response to this question: What new experience was life-giving to you in the past year?”

Willard lights the Advent and Christ candles. Right: Greek lentil and spinach soup. Body, mind and spirit well nourished.

New Year’s Eve 2022

I’m sharing Marty’s “new experience,” with her assent. Speaks volumes for me, too.

by Marty Bender

What new experience was life-giving to you in the past year?

This question gave me pause.  As I reviewed the year I was hard pressed to come up with anything that I had done for the first time.

And then I got it – this year for the very first time I celebrated my 80th birthday! Never did that before. And the spector of the occasion hung over me at the back of my mind the entire year until it happened.

And honestly, it was quite a privilege.  I mean it. I got so many birthday cards I could scarcely count them, and that’s nothing compared to the number of birthday greetings that I got on Facebook – at least 50.  And I had two birthday parties and a few dinners out. 

But most of all I count it a privilege to have had my 80th birthday when I remember all of the people in my life who did not have the privilege.  My mother was only 74 when she died. Lois, my best friend from high school, was only in her early 50s when she passed away.  Jim Lauver, my niece, Jan’s husband, was 57 when he died very suddenly. Judy, my longtime teaching buddy from Cleveland, was 68 when she died in her sleep while on a cruise.  And my very dear friend, Kass Seitz was only 74 when she died.  These are just a few of the people in my life that did not have the privilege of an 80th birthday.

So how is it life-giving to be 80 years old?

As an octogenarian I have the right to sit in the “reserved for elderly” seats on the bus in Cornwall.

I don’t need to worry about having a bad hair day because really, who notices us old folks?

People in their 80s are expected to tire easily so if I don’t feel like doing something I will just say I’m too tired.

If I don’t agree with what someone is saying I will just say, sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. (Chances are it’ll be the truth.)

I am enjoying hearing my friends (and others) who gasp, “You don’t look or act like you’re 80.”

It is life-giving for me to have my 80th birthday because, well really, I’m living. So, I wake up with a grateful heart each morning, and go to sleep each night with gratitude for having enjoyed another day of 80-plus living.

Ice age of brief distraction

Prayer for the New Year

from (Brother) John Charles Vockler (1924-2014), Australian bishop and Franciscan friar

“For all the possibilities ahead in this new year make us thankful, O Lord. Give us wisdom, courage, and discernment in the face of so much chaos, despair, and fear. Help us to see how, in our circumstances, we can contribute towards peace, faith and love. And give us the will to translate our desires into actions.”

A glad new year!


14 thoughts on “Ready, set, pause

  1. What a lovely post today, John! Your life celebration at New Year’s and Marty’s 80th birthday musings prepare you for another awesome trip to Cornwall. Marty, I have two things to add: you can never have a bad hair day and, yes, you certainly look and act much younger than your age.

    We love you both,
    🥰Ginger and Monty


  2. Loved it! Thanks for sending this post. 😀 What talented and fantastic writers you both are! Thank you so much, Cathi & Wray


  3. This note is for Marty (John you can read it too).

    Here is a Haiku I wrote for Marlene who also turned 80 this January

    the Haiku

    Eighty years, MY LORD.
    Life goes no, lean into it
    You’re old only once.

    Marty, here is whishing for you a year that exceeds your best expectations.

    Stanley K.


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