Still Caring: Christian meditations and
Dorothy M. Stewart
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code
Rich in Years: Finding peace and purpose in a long
Johann Christoph Arnold
BOTH these books were written from lived experience, and it
shows. Dorothy M. Stewart's Still Caring is for carers who
are about to move, or have just moved, the person they care for
into a residential home. Each chapter consists of a quotation from
the Bible, Stewart's own reflections (about a page long), a short
prayer, and a "self-care suggestion". Crucially for a carer,
Still Caring can be read one chapter at a time, each
chapter a quick and easy read.
Having recently been through exactly the process that Stewart is
addressing, I found most of the chapters very apt, and reading them
was astonishingly reassuring. Also, friends have been inclined to
emphasise (correctly) how much more time I have for other things
now; so Still Caring was a helpful balance: it reminded me
that one does not stop caring although the practicalities have
changed. I valued the self-care suggestions in particular, mostly
for the reminder that self-care is still needed.
Addressing the experience of ageing more generally, Johann
Arnold's Rich in Years encourages readers to approach
older age purposefully and with faith. Indeed,the book explicitly
challengessocial pressures to idolise youth, vigour, and bodily
health, and the pressure to increase length of lifeat all
Arnold's approach here is to inspire rather than provide a
step-by-step "how to". He draws on his own experience and
experiences of people he knows to explore aspects of getting older
such as "Accepting Changes", "Combating Loneliness", "Finding
Purpose", "Living with Dementia", and so on. In each chapter, he
gives some thoughts of his own and from scripture, but almost
always a central place is given to the stories of individuals,
showing how they tackled the particular feature of ageing and how
it worked out for them.
A number of times, I thought that a particular experience would
not transpose to another location, but I still found the stories
encouraging. Here were people who had faced the reality of illness
and pain (say), and had found an honest way of keeping faith in the
midst of it. So maybe the rest of us can find a way
I also found Rich in Years something of a challenge.
Arnold'sstories evidence a strong sense of community, so that
people are able to face ageing from the basis of a range of good
relationships. I noticed that these relationships included people
of different ages and stages of life. In the stories given, these
existing relationships provide solid ground for some honest talking
and for taking practical steps in finding peace and purpose.
If we want older people around us to be rich in years in this
way,the challenge, I feel, is to build and sustain real
relationships in community - for their sake and ours. Arnold
emphasises the import-ance in this of two-parent familiesthat
endure. I welcome the encouragement given in the foreword to "make
friends of various generations - ten years younger, 20, 30, 40.
Make friends; be a friend."
Dr Spalding is Spirituality Adviser in the diocese of St
Edmundsbury & Ipswich, and a member of the Third Order of the
Society of St Francis.