Thursday, February 2, 2012

Life Expectancy

"The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My 16-year-old son Justin and I recently had a meeting with his high school guidance counselor to help plan out his future career goals. She greeted us with this thought: "Your generation is expected to have a maximum life span of 123 years and you won't retire until you are 75 so you better plan your future wisely." No, I didn't mistype that, she really did say 123 years. Scary stuff! I was thinking that the average life expectancy of 80 years of exile on earth before going home to our God is a bit much, especially if those later years are marked by poor health and dependence upon others, but 123 years is just pushing the buttons a bit, isn't it?

Her scare tactic didn't impress Justin, though. His mind is made up that he wants to work with his hands and right now the thought of working as an auto technician until he is 75 is appealing to him quite a bit. (Fabulous, I say! Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an auto mechanic in the family?)

But her statement made me ponder a little more seriously about this thing called life. In my world where I spend my work days surrounded by pregnant women swollen with the cusp of new life, newborn babies blinking at the bright lights of their emerging world, pudgy six-month old babes all smiles and laughter, and tired toddlers carrying on with tempestuous meltdowns over the fear of being measured and weighed, life is vibrant and full of energy. Every experience is a first and the excitement of newness is just around every corner.

But looking ahead at 123 years of firsts, seconds and more, and the staleness of "been there, done that" becomes the name of the game. How can humanity expect to keep the freshness of new life experiences going after 123 years or so? My thought is that the only way to keep a human being actively engaged in the workings of this world with a joyful spirit is through the companionship of other lives, through the blessing of a loving friend.

The Lord had graciously blessed me with an abundance of beautiful friends, those in whom I can confide and those who feel that I am a safe person with whom to share their soul stories as well. But among my many friends there is one with whom I share the longest history and she is now, and has always been, very special to me.

Judy and I met 25 years ago in a technical college sociology class. We must have misunderstood the name and purpose of the class because we did more socializing there than learning about sociology and we became fast and forever friends. Judy was studying police science and I was there working toward a degree in dietetics. We are about as different as two women could be-Judy, strikingly beautiful inside and out, is married to another wonderful police officer and the two of them are childless; I'm married to a another foodie (Paul is a chef) and our marriage is blessed with an abundance of children (or as Vicki, another one of Judy's friends would teasingly ask "How's Anne and her 18 kids?) Judy takes multiple vacations to Las Vegas but if I could go anywhere in this world my heart would call me to Rome. Judy and I both grew up in large and faith-filled families but she is Lutheran, and of course, you know, I'm Catholic. Judy is funny, smart, loving, outgoing and energetic, a real joy to be around and a great blessing in my life.

When Judy and I first met we were wild young girls who spent a great deal of time out partying at the bars, drinking and dancing until all hours. To this day I cannot hear You Dropped a Bomb On Me, Baby by the Gap Band without smiling at the remembrance of those fun nights out dancing with Judy. We've certainly both mellowed with time and now only get together about once or twice a year for dinner and a single drink.

It's Judy who has kept our friendship alive over the years as I am terrible about keeping in contact-rarely calling or writing. It's always Judy who remembers every birthday, anniversary and special occasion. It's Judy who extends compassion in hard times, not only to me but to her large network of close friends, many of whom she has remained close to since she was in high school. It's Judy who has a deep understanding about the importance of enduring friendship in this often lonely world.

Judy certainly has a knack for making and keeping friends. She can start a conversation with a stranger about some ordinary topic like the weather and make an instant friend. Everywhere we have gone together for as long as I've known her she runs into someone she knows, and everyone she knows loves her forever. She once invited the entire group of people who were working out at her fitness club one morning to join her for a game of bowling that night. Forty strangers showed up to bowl with Judy.

Last night Judy and I got together for dinner and a drink (my favorite-a mojito) at a cute little Mexican restaurant. I told her about the meeting with Justin's guidance counselor and her warning about the life expectancy of this generation of teens. "Is she crazy," she asked, "Sixty years is too long for me!" But by the time we parted with an embrace at the end of the night we had both agreed that living to be 123 years old would be a joy as long as we remained in each others lives.

And I looked back into the restaurant as we walked away and saw a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe that I didn't notice when I had arrived. I smiled at the certainty that even the Blessed Mother would agree that a faithful friend is the greatest gift that God has bestowed upon the lives of His children, whether those lives are short-lived lasting only 60 years, or enduring for the long-haul of 123 years on this earth.


  1. Anne, I don't worry about how long or short I live. You identified friends as a key component in making our lives enjoyable, but I also view God's plans as a key component in making my life enjoyable. With longer lives, I expect that God can make greater use of us --- more opportunity to serve! Thus far I've found that as I live longer I don't get bored with the same things, but things change, and life moves through phases. My latest, retirement and caring, phase was totally unplanned for, as is my blogging time. But God showed me the way, a new way for me, to serve Him AND enjoy life.

    If He blesses us with more years, I am very confident He will bless us with more phases to our life, ever newer and more interesting ways to serve Him, and to get to know Him.

    Blessings to you, always ---- and for many years.

  2. You make good points here Tom. I know someone who excels at discerning and following God's will in all things. He only wants what God wants and is always happy and at peace because of this. That is a quality that I long to possess. That's why I chose the word "embrace" for my spiritual focus this year. I don't want to just accept God's will in my life, I want to embrace and love it! It sounds like you have made good headway in that area yourself. Still, a good friend makes life so much more pleasant, don't you agree? I guess my biggest fear in life in loneliness so I'm grateful that God has given me so many wonderful people to share my life with-I need constant reminders that He is with me through the presence of my friends and family.

  3. Anne ~ what a beautiful tribute to life! Your relationship with your son and your enduring friendship with Judy made me think about John the Baptist and Jesus, how when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:41) Beautiful!

  4. Thanks Renee! I was thinking about Mary and Elizabeth when I wrote this as well, of course, I'm almost always thinking of them when I consider the joys of friendship between women.

  5. Anne, I met someone like your friend, Judy. She has a gift for noticing what is important to others and has a sensitivity for how to say things and even be true to her own opinions and the experiences behind them without offending others with differing points of view. Friendship is a wonderful gift! God puts these beautiful people in our lives. Still what is calling you to Rome (and you will get there, no doubt, in God's perfect time) and to spend time with him after communion is the confident belief that the beauty of our friends' souls is the masterpiece of our Creator. It is in a way an icon drawing us closer to Him who blessed them and through them blesses us. I met a woman who was 109. She said she was happy with her long life, but she was really ready to go. She had gone to the funerals of all her friends, siblings, cousins and had seen great, great grandchildren be married. She still was lucid and mobile, but she wanted to go home!

  6. Colleen, I like what you say about your friend being true to her opinions and the EXPERIENCES BEHIND THEM. That's something to seriously take into account whenever we disagree with somebody-their lives are not like our own and they often have very good reasons to feel so strongly about the things that they value or reject.

    And I LOVE what you say about our friends soul's being an icon drawing us closer to God! What a beautiful and refreshing thought! Thank you for writing!