Do we ever escape our family of origin?

Last week I talked a bit about the first presentation Rabbi Address will give on November 13th. Today I want to share one of the themes of his second presentation, which focuses on Jacob and Joseph.

In this talk, Rabbi Address asks: Do we ever escape our family of origin? Is Dad still alive? Is Mom still alive? I know that whenever I look in the mirror, I see my late mother’s face staring back at me and she seems very alive! She still influences traditional practices I keep and some of the decisions I make, both large and small.

For instance, I never, never throw out a piece of aluminum foil until it has been used multiple times and I am absolutely convinced I cannot get one more turn out of it. Then there are the pretty spring and autumn wreaths that people place on their front doors and which I love. But the only time I put a wreath on our front door is at Christmas, because that’s what Mom did. When she was young a wreath on the door at any other time of year meant that someone in that home had died. Even though we no longer associate front door wreaths with death, I feel that my mother would disapprove if I were to hang one on my door except at Christmas. So I simply enjoy other people’s front door wreaths. These of course is just small things, but I know that, at least unconsciously, my mother continues to influence much bigger decisions I make in life, normally for good, but not always. For example,  there have been prejudices that my parents held that I have needed to reexamine and then shed altogether.

The biggest question I have concerns what my parents would think of the life I have created. I often wonder whether they would be pleased with the big choices I have made. I would like to think that they would be happy with the way I turned out and the family that Richard and I have raised; but there are some days I am not really sure. Have I been a disappointment to them? They would have been thrilled, for example, if I had finished my PhD in Church History at the University of St. Andrews and taught at a university. That did not happen. So am I still trying to earn their approval and make them proud of me? Even in the second half of life I am not sure that we ever fully escape this desire to please our parents – especially when we have been blessed with good and loving parents.

Do we ever escape our family of origin? Do we want to? What do YOU think?

Who Are You and Who and What Defines You in the Second Half of Life?

Have you registered for Our Long and Winding Road: Seeking Our Path in the Longevity Revolution with Rabbi Richard Address? If not, you will want to do so very soon. Because we are trying to limit our capacity as per health unit directives, we have intentionally restricted the number of participants who can attend. For this reason only a few spaces still remain.  

Rabbi Address will have several very stimulating presentations on November 13th that speak directly to the issues that are most on our hearts. In his first address for the day, he will focus on a question that most of us have probably wrestled with all our lives but which now takes on a new poignancy in the second half of life, namely, who am I and who and what defines me?

In other words, who tells us who we are? Our car? Our house or how well appointed our condo is? Our bank account? The size of our retirement portfolio? How successful our kids are? The photos of grandchildren we carry around in our wallets or how many bogeys we got in last week’s golf tournament? Where we spend our winters? Our hobbies? The books we read or the sports we play? Our volunteer activities and what we give back to our community?

Whether we realise it or not, the question of our identity is a profoundly spiritual one. It invites us to reflect upon where we have been and where and how God is calling us to serve in this chapter of our lives, which, as Rabbi Address notes, is a time of spiritual transformation akin to that  revealed in the story of Jacob’s Ladder.

Moreover, what and who are the angels who hold us as we age? With what do we wrestle in our older years? And where and how do we receive God’s blessing?

a great coming of age story for boomers and older adults

Most coming of age novels are about young people on the cusp of adulthood, but recently my dear, life-long friend Liz put me on to a beautiful story which shifts the genre to a much later generation. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by up and coming English author Beth Morrey deserves all the high praise that has been heaped upon it. Beautifully written, the novel invites us into the life of former Cambridge graduate Millicent (Missy) Carmichael as she struggles with loneliness and contemplates her 79th birthday without her children or her brilliant, renowned historian but distant husband by her side. Ruminating on an event that happened after a party she attended while she was a student at St. Botolph’s (the same party where Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes) and a difficult choice she had to make because of it, through Missy we learn how to forgive ourselves and even find new hope and new friends in surprising places in our older years.


One of the key concepts Morrey deals with is the Greek idea of oikos, that sense of hearth and home that is much more than bricks and mortar and which speaks of family and love, security and comfort. We might describe it as a feeling of wholeness coupled with a sense of belonging.


Other important themes concern inter-generational relations and how we repair our relationships with our adult children, the changing nature of marriage as we age, the many faces of loneliness, how we learn to build a community for ourselves in our later years, and the role of young children and pets in helping us to stay lighthearted. Dog lovers will instantly warm to this book!


As the critics have written, there is nothing saccharine about The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. If you are ready for a story that invites you to go deeper and raises the kinds of courageous questions that we need to ask ourselves in this stage of our lives, this book may be just what you need. Poignant and heart-warming, it shows how we can find hope, meaning, and spiritual fulfillment in the second half of life if we are willing to move outside our comfort zone. Discussion questions suitable for book groups and an interview with the author are included at the back of the book.


I highly recommend this novel to all my Boomer and older adult friends AND to my millennial aged-children and friends as well.

Fall is Here and Rabbi Richard Address Will Soon Be Joining Us for an Amazing Event, So Register Now!

Our Long and Winding Road:

Seeking our Path in the Longevity Revolution

RICHARD F. ADDRESS, RABBI, D.MIN

Richard F. Address, D.Min., is a leading authority on Boomer and Older Adult Ministry. He serves as Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. He served for 33 years on staff of Union for Reform Judaism as Regional Director and then as Founding Director of Department of Jewish Family Concerns.

He has also served congregations in California and, for the last several years, was senior rabbi at a congregation in southern New Jersey. He hosts the weekly radio show “Boomer Generation Radio” in Philadelphia and serves as co-chair of the Committee of Spirituality and Diversity for C-TAC: the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.

Rabbi Address is active with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and writes and speaks regularly on issues related to baby boomers, aging and how Judaism can impact our lives as we age. An incredibly engaging and thoughtful speaker, we are delighted to be able to welcome Rabbi Address back to London this November.

RESCHEDULED DATE

Saturday, November 13, 2021
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Registration opens at 8:30 a.m.)
$50 per person – snacks and lunch included
Hosted at Siloam United Church, London, ON

HOW TO REGISTER

Or leave a message on the church’s voicemail: 519-455-9201

Are You Anxious or Worried? Then Please Join our Study of Max Lucado’s book, “Anxious for Nothing”, at Siloam United Church, Friday, September 17th, 10 a.m. — 11:45 a.m.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the daily lives of most Canadians, including Baby Boomers and Older Adults. The increase in social isolation, job and income loss, and difficulties meeting financial obligations, only exacerbate the problems faced by many in our land, particularly those groups that are marginalized. An increase in depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome), and anxiety mean that the mental health of too many Canadians has been seriously compromised. Threats of a possible fourth wave of the pandemic do little to assuage these fears.

Even before the pandemic hit, many Canadians suffered from stress and anxiety. While we cannot always control the events that happen to us and those around us, we can learn how to “reframe” our fears and anxieties and begin to live the life that God wants to give us.

If you would like to explore this topic further, please join us for our Fall Study Group at Siloam. No previous knowledge of the Bible is required. Just a willingness to prayerfully discern what the scriptures have to say to us in our contemporary context. Masks are optional for those who have been doubly vaccinated and every attempt will be made to provide socially distanced seating for those who are not in the same bubble, unless further restrictions are posted by the Middlesex Health Unit.

Only a few spaces remain, so please register early if you wish to attend. We begin our study on Friday, September 17th, 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East. To register please write to smacgregor@siloamunitedchurch.org You may purchase Max Lucado’s book at Creation Bookstore at 900 Oxford Street East in London. If possible, please read the first section, chapters 1 to 4, chapter before our first session on September 17th.

For more information on Lucado’s book and our study, please watch the video below:

The Daffodil Principle

For the month of August I will be taking a sabbatical from my blog. As I prepare to start holidays on Tuesday, I thought it would be nice to leave you with this beautiful story. Some months ago a lovely woman in my congregation sent me this article about the Daffodil Principle. (Thanks, Joyce!) Perhaps you are familiar with it. It originates in the Chicken Soup books, a series that has been very popular with many Boomers over the years. I draw upon Sam Thomas Davies for this story.

Writer Sam Thomas Davies tells about something he read in Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul:

“In one chapter, Jaroldeen Edwards recounts the day her daughter, Carolyn, drove her to Lake Arrowhead to visit a daffodil garden.

Apparently Jaroldeen’s daughter was constantly urging her to visit the daffodil garden with her. It was two hours away and Jaroldeen was not sure she wanted to drive that far, but finally she made the trip. When she and her daughter arrived at the daffodil garden, Jaroldeen couldn’t believe her eyes:

“We turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes . . . There were five acres of flowers”.

There were daffodils as far as the eye could see.

On the land, was a house with a poster that read: “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking”. The first answer was: “50,000 bulbs”. The second answer was: “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and [a] very little brain”. The third answer was: “Began in 1958”.

This woman had adopted what Jaroldeen would call “The Daffodil Principle”: a lifelong commitment to a goal by taking one action every day.”

Jaroldeen’s story, as recounted by Davies, reminds us that most success stories are the result, not of sudden, spectacular wins or extraordinary actions. Instead, they are about taking one action at a time, committing oneself daily to a larger goal, remaining faithful to that goal through hard work and dedication. They are also about learning to be flexible, trusting the process, and being willing to learn new ways of doing things. The woman who planted the daffodils, one bulb at a time, had to learn about the quality of the soil, how and where to plant the flowers so that they would receive just the right amount of sunlight, and then she had to commit herself to regular watering, fertilizing and weeding of the garden. Not an easy or glamorous job but one that led to a glorious garden that has brought tremendous joy and beauty into the lives of many.

The season for daffodils has passed; but many other flowers are beginning to bloom and there will be others that will blossom throughout August and September. I hope that you will take time to smell the flowers, to give thanks for the hands that planted and nurtured them, and for our loving God who sends the rain and sunshine to help them grow.

Have a wonderful summer, friends, and see you again in September!

Re-Purposing Your Life

The other day we met one of our favourite Boomer couples for lunch. It had been a long time since we had visited with them and so it was great to get caught up on all their news. We talked about how Covid had impacted our lives, our longing for a return to a more normal life and how we all missed seeing family and friends on a regular basis.

Then one of our friends said, “You know, this whole experience with Covid has made me reconsider retirement. At one time I could not wait for the day. Now I realise that when that time comes, I will need to have something more in my life, something meaningful, a reason to get up in the morning.” Our friend’s husband agreed and so did Richard and I.

Many Boomers who are still working full-time got a trial run at retirement during Covid. Working from home, we have learned what it is like to spend every minute of every hour of every day with our partner. We have missed our colleagues and the daily routine of getting up, dressed up, and heading out to work. Some of us have even missed the long commute. (Okay, maybe we didn’t miss it all that much!) It’s a been a wake-up call for those who have always believed that nothing could be better than sleeping in late each morning and spending the day reading and golfing and doing woodworking or making crafts.

Life is a long series of adaptations and one of the toughest ones we face is retirement. I have long believed that Churches could and should do a far better job of helping people in retirement, not by simply sticking them on a committee they may have no interest or aptitude for, but rather by helping people to really explore how God is calling them into a new chapter, one in which they are being encouraged to use their talents and hard won experience in the pursuit of a more just world. God gives us fresh beginnings every day. How will we use those in the service of God’s Kin-dom here on earth? Maybe we need to think of retirement less as a withdrawal from our life’s work and more as a form of “re-purposing” our lives, in which we re-align our lives to God’s purposes.

A Boomer’s Stroll Down Memory Lane! Happy Anniversary to the Best Husband in the World!

Yesterday, since my own church at Siloam does not re-open for in-person worship until Sunday, July 18th, I had the privilege of worshipping at Metropolitan United Church in London, Ontario. The service, music and message were excellent, as always; but what I was not expecting, especially given the theme (King David dancing around the Ark of the Covenant in an ancient G-string!), was a stroll down memory lane.

The first hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation”, was the hymn to which I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, 36 years ago today! ( I remember that one wit said, “Well, at least one good thing will be happening on Orangeman’s Day!”) Then, partway through the service, the amazing soloist sang one of my favourites: The Holy City, which brought back memories of the first concert Richard and I attended after our marriage. It was the Scottish folksinger Mary Sandeman singing this beautiful piece, accompanied by the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, at The King’s in Edinburgh.

Next there was the touching announcement made by liturgist Rick Wood as he shared the news of the recent birth of his little granddaughter. Understandably overcome by emotion, he shed a tear as he described this precious wee lass, that brought to mind the birth of our first child, also a girl, who will be married on August 14th, the circle of life complete!

And Rev. Dr. Geoff Crittenden’s reference to the scantily clad King David dancing around the Ark of the Covenant? Well, what can I say except that our daughter was soon accompanied by three younger brothers!

Remembering a Dear Friend: A Now Common Feature of the Second Half of Life Landscape

I have just re-read the story of Henry Francis Lyte. Born in Scotland on June 1st, 1793, Lyte was left an orphan when he was only a child. Life was hard for him and constantly he struggled with poverty. His dream of becoming a physician eluded him, but he eventually felt a call to the ministry.

He wrote that a turning-point occurred in his life when he was summoned to the bedside of a dear friend who was dying. Both he and his friend were devastated by the prospect of the man’s death, but together they read the scriptures and prayed. Through that experience each found the peace he needed: the dying one found love and acceptance in the sure hope that he was returning to the God who loved him, and Lyte discovered his pathway into the Christian ministry.

For nearly 25 years Lyte served as minister to the fisherfolk and sailors of Lower Brixham. But his health was frail and over the years it continued to dissipate. In the fall of 1847, Lyte had a premonition that the end was near. He told a friend that the swallows were flying southward and that “they were inviting me to accompany them; and yet alas; while I am talking of flying, I am just able to crawl.”

Soon he celebrated his farewell worship service with the good people of Brixham. Afterwards he walked out to the shoreline and watched the splendour of the setting sun over the shimmering waters. After spending about an hour in nature, he returned to his study to compose one of the Church’s most favourite hymns: “Abide With Me”. The words are included below.

Those of us who find ourselves in the second half of life are starting to grow accustomed to endings. It is the part of the older adult journey that I like the least, but I know I have to get used to it. I remember when I was starting out in ministry, a lovely man who was the local funeral director told me in private that he did not think he could do his job much longer. He was in sixties at the time and found that he was burying too many of his friends.

A couple of weeks ago I lost a dear friend. Bruce was the Clerk of Session on my ordinand’s pastoral charge. He was not the most successful farmer I have ever known, but he loved life on the land and he loved people.. He was also a thoughtful, caring and deeply faithful servant of Christ. He loved to sing in the choir and I am sure Lyte’s hymn was a favourite because Bruce loved all the “oldies but goodies.” Although I did not get to see him a lot in recent years, he would phone me from time to time, always eager to learn about what I was up to and how my family was doing. Over the years Richard and the children and I have received many beautiful cards from him. He never forgot a birthday or an anniversary. I know he trusted that God abided with him throughout all the ups and downs of life. Now “heaven’s morning has broken for him” and, as in life, so in death Bruce abides in the eternal love of the Lord he served for 85 years.

Rest in peace, Bruce.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.