RETIRMENT may or may not be planned. But, sooner or later, we are likely to face losses of what we used to do and of people who are important to us. Wendy Billington draws on her pastoral experience to explore both the challenges and the opportunities of these years. She illustrates this through the story of a fictional “Jim” which runs alongside other reflections in the book.
There are two sections — “Clearing the Weeds”, which addresses common difficulties, and “Sowing the Seeds”, which gives a range of possibilities. “Clearing the Weeds” includes facing loss, facing our fears, and healing the memories as the changes of later years may bring to the surface wounds thought to be long past. She recognises that body, mind, emotions, and spirit all play a part in living these years well.
The second section is the book’s core. In it, Billington argues that retired people can still offer much, in particular through learning to listen well. She encourages looking for opportunities and recognising gifts, especially gifts that may have been in the background until now. She is also realistic about the continuing changes that come with older age. Her chapter on relationships is almost at the end. I was sorry it came so late: from my own experience, relationships become increasingly important as other aspects of life diminish.
Helpfully, each chapter ends with questions for group discussion, questions for personal reflection, and a thought for the day on a fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, and so on). I would recommend discussion on the book’s themes, as I found that I had quite a few questions about how they would work out in other contexts.
Nevertheless, Billington offers a useful overview of many aspects of later life, giving a good place to start reflecting and talking.
Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.
Retired and Inspired: Making the most of our latter years
Church Times Bookshop £8.10