I very clearly remember my father’s 40th birthday
I remember how old he seemed
I also vividly remember an incident from his 51st year, when he was just a few months younger than I am now. It was a family holiday and, as was our custom, we’d spent a week in a caravan on the coast of North Wales. One day, I guess the weather was clement, we decided to climb Yr Wydffa [Snowdon to the uninitiates – the highest mountain in England and Wales, and yes it is a mountain – Edmund Hillary trained there for his ascent of Everest, and I’ve sat several times in the bar where he and the rest of the team relaxed after a day testing themselves on the ice clad cliffs of Cloggy]
My memory was of how my dad stopped at the Gladstone Rock, not because he was pausing, he just couldn’t go any further.
The other week, I ‘celebrated’ my 51st birthday by climbing Ben Lomond above Queenstown: as straightforward a climb as it’s namesake just north of Glasgow; as much climbing as ‘The Ben’; and with views from the summit every bit as good as the latter. I whipped up and down in 5 hrs and remembered my dad, and thought of how I’d been trained to stay alive longer. (My father died at 63 from advanced heart disease. Of course we weren’t as alert to, (or troubled by??), such things in those days, we just thought he couldn’t get up the hill because he was old . . . as did he)
It strikes me that by and large the people of my dads generation were the last that weren’t obsessed with ‘keeping fit’, ‘cardiac health’, etc. The last that were in some sense accepting of ‘three score and ten’. They were also in my experience the last generation for whom Christian life was in some sense ‘the norm’
Even at 51, I’m a bit of an anomaly in seeking to be a disciple of Jesus, my children may as well be from Mars.
It also strikes me that these two facts are not unrelated.
Jesus calls us to an act of profound self forgetfulness, to live as though dead. Put another way, to get our dying out of the way ahead of time, to put aside our desires to live forever, in order that we might Live.
Perhaps my birthday ascent of Ben Lomond wasn’t the feat I’d so complimented myself on. I realised I’d been taught by the world that the real thing was to avoid death, thus making discipleship impossible.