Stuart Hamblen, the cowboy singer-songwriter, was a hard-living alcoholic, who was converted to Christ in the Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles, California in 1949. He later wrote numerous gospel songs, many of which remain popular to this day; “Until Then”, “This Old House”, “It Is No Secret” to mention only a few. A lesser-known song entitled “Tho’ Autumn’s Coming On” seems to have been written for or about his wife Suzy, and speaks of the progression of life.
Through changing seasons We've shared life's little days Still in love Tho' autumn's coming on It seems unreal Our souvenirs still look so new We reminisce And must confess that this is true We sang lullabies to babies cries In the springtime Oh, how the time seemed to fly We had scarcely put the crib away When, like magic We looked up the aisle And beheld a lovely bride We waved goodbye as, one by one They joined life's parade Then at a bugle call He stood proud and tall There went our baby Tho' seasons change Hand in hand, we'll travel on Still in love Tho' autumn's coming on1
Life moves like the seasons of the year
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter: the four seasons that remind us of the stages of a human life. There is infancy and childhood, then the flower of youth. Then Fall, that suggests middle age as we work, raise our children, and watch the inevitable changes come into our lives as they move out, go to college, get married, and start their own family.
Fall: bright sunny days, clear, crisp, nights. A noticeable coolness. Leaves falling. How this reminds us that we are moving toward winter, the final stage of weakening bodies, failing memories, and the all-to-frequent goodbyes that are said as friends and loved ones pass into eternity.
What a difference a couple of decades make! Or a generation. Looking back, we can scarcely believe, that things have changed so much. And so quickly! Yet that is the reality in which we live, and we should allow it to instruct, inform, and inspire us, not cause us depression and disillusionment. Handling the aging process requires a strong dose of God’s grace, a sense of humor, courage, and objectivity.
Interestingly enough, songwriters, Steve and Annie Chapman did a song over 30 years ago in much the same vein, called “Seasons of a Man.” It has a child singing “I am the springtime,” a teen singing “I am the summer,” a middle-aged man (Steve Chapman himself) singing “I am the autumn days,” and finally, an elderly gentleman who sings
"I am the winter when days are cold and bitter And the days I can remember number more than the days to come. When you ride instead of walking, when you barely hear the talking When goodbyes are said too often...I am the winter. But it will be spring again in Heaven, and it'll last forever.2
Beautiful! “Springtime again in Heaven…forever!” How those words minister to my heart!
I’d like to finish this with some conclusions and recommendations. I speak from a full heart, as one who has now reached the winter season of life. But more than that, I want to be a spokesman to my generation that we don’t stop serving the Lord. Read Psalms 71 and 92 that so poignantly and powerfully record the prayer of the elderly for God to continue to use them for His glory and in His service.3 I also want to encourage the younger generations to not forget the older folks, and never think that God can’t still use them.
Recommendation: Have patience with the elderly.
This can be especially difficult when there are memory problems, emotional fluctuations, and a growing weakness and dependency. But we must then think of our parents or relatives as returning to a second childhood, and treat them somewhat (not entirely, since they are adults) as we did our small children. Lots of love and affection, always.
Recommendation: There are still opportunities for the elderly to still serve.
Consider the retired priests in the Old Testament. At age 50 they had to step down from full-time duties. However, they were still permitted to assist their colleagues. I’m convinced we must find a way to use the geriatric generation. Part-time ministry, assistant to the lead pastor, leading smaller churches, ministers of care for the senior age group, chaplains, nursing homes, and many other opportunities.
I also feel we should utilize their wisdom in the churches, quarterly meetings, and similar settings. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions the older generation can make is as mentors to younger believers. This must be intentional; we move in different circles. Unlike a time 75 or a hundred years ago when grandparents remained in the home and were cared for until they passed, thus giving them frequent access to both children and grandchildren, today family gatherings have to be scheduled.
Recommendation: Honor the elderly
Scripture (Proverbs, I Timothy) is very clear about giving respect and showing honor to the elderly. It is evident that both open disrespect of the elderly, as well as totally ignoring them would constitute a failure to honor them. (As an additional resource, Bayview Health Care lists some practical ways we can honor and interact with older people.)
May the Lord help all of us to be intentional about showing respect and honor intergenerationally, both to our age group, as well as to older and younger.