An Encouraging Word — Facing facts

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Worry brings on premature old age. Sirach 30:24

I woke up this morning and said to myself, “Oh, my God! I will be 71 next Tuesday!”

As much as I try not to think about it, I feel like I am gradually sliding down hill into extinction and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Yes, I know it could be 30 years away, but it could just as well be a whole lot sooner, as far as that goes.

Knowing that it is undignified for old people to exhibit panic and for priests to publicly admit to temporarily losing sight of an afterlife, I am trying to remain calm, cool and collected. Deep down, however, I resonate with those who believe that inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.

If you don’t laugh, you cry. I agree with comedian Woody Allen when it comes to dying and the afterlife: “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” and “If only God would give me a clear sign. Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank!”

American dramatist, William Saroyan, probably summed up my feelings best of all: “Everybody has to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.”

Before anyone starts writing letters to Archbishop Kurtz or calling the priest personnel health panel for an investigation of my mental state, let me be clear — this is all tongue in cheek. Well, mostly, anyway.

I probably wouldn’t think about my age all that much if AARP hadn’t started sending me their in-your-face mailings 21 years ago. Twenty-one years, for God’s sake! I have probably wasted a lot of money, but I still refuse to ask for the “senior coffee” at McDonald’s. Rather than “get into it” with them at the counter, I simply avoid coffee at McDonald’s altogether.

Now if it weren’t for birthdays, I could turn my head and look the other way. I know that one must be prepared spiritually, emotionally and financially, but I don’t want to dwell on it.

I really want to be shocked when death happens. Notice I left out “physically” prepared. I am in reasonably good health, but I am not a fanatic about it. George Burns, the dead cigar-holding comedian, hit the nail on the head, I believe, when he said, “I spent my retirement going to funerals of people who exercised.”

My new motto, going forward, is going to be the same one as another Ron, Ron Propeil, who sold Ronco Rotisserie Ovens on his infomercials that used to run on TV — “Set it and forget it!” (Even that example, no doubt, dates me.)

I have taken my “Diocesan Priest’s Pre-Retirement Inventory Test” and received the feedback. I am reasonably prepared spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. Now that I have “set it,” I am trying to “forget it.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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