My dear young friend,
How surprising that you would ask such a question! “What is old age like?”
My Latin would be eloquent indeed if I could answer that question well. But I
shall make the attempt.
You must understand that I have only lately reached that position. You become
old in your own mind only when most of your friends have died. You realize that
you are among the last of your generation. So in a sense old age brings with it
loneliness. It also brings with it a sense that only my body is old. My mind is
still young and sharp. This is why God gives us grandchildren, I think. My sons
think that I am no longer capable; my grandchildren know better.
The reason they think I am not capable is simple. The flame of my life burns
steadily now. When I was young my life was one of passion and upheaval. A few
words could bring me joy; others could bring me to rage. Since I no longer go
about as a man blown in every wind, they assume I no longer care. They are
wrong. I am old, and I refuse to be a windblown leaf. The leaves think the old
oak dead because he moves so little.
Indeed, I have little reason to move, either. The sea of life is much calmer
now. No longer do I need to see every word as a challenge, every action as a
threat. As a young man I depended upon my strength. An old man depends upon the
Lord. He calms the seas at his command, and he has calmed mine.
Am I afraid of death? I think not. I have seen many die, and the process is
not pleasant. I suspect I will not enjoy it. But death itself holds no terrors
for an old Christian. My Lord has gone on before me – and returned from the
grave. My guide is sure. Indeed, he tells me that he has prepared a place for me
and assured me of my welcome. Have you ever been on a long trip with a warm home
at the end? Take heart, young friend, in this: death is not the end. For our
Lord has promised his return, and with it our resurrection. I shall inquire as
to your whereabouts on that day; see to it that you are there to meet me.
In faith eternal,
Isaac the alchemist