I have a confession to make. When I am out with Bernice, and I see an old couple, I will hum the first few lines of the Beatle’s number, “When I’m 64”. It was my cheeky way of saying “Watch out, old folks ahead”. Well, I turned 64 yesterday (5 March).
“When I’m 64” is from the Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, released in 1967 when I was in Form 1 (Grade 7). A catchy number from a brilliant album, I have been singing/humming it for 52 years, aware that a day would come when I could sing it accurately — when I’m 64. Five decades. The day has come. (And gone.) Well, only God knows but I probably won’t have five more decades and one’s thoughts do turn to how one should end well. Which brings me to something else I have been carrying in my heart for sometime now — the story of Simeon in Luke chapter 2.
Simeon was led to the baby Jesus, he carried Him and praised God saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29–32 NIV)
At some point in his life — we are not told when — God had promised Simeon he would see the long-awaited Messiah before his death. The day had come and he was ready to go — “dismiss your servant in peace”. God had kept His word. Simeon had seen the Messiah.
A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle exhorts us to “prepare yourself for a good end of life”. Katy Butler, the author, writes:
Last month I turned 70. The peculiar problems of modern death — often overly medicalized and unnecessarily prolonged — are no longer abstractions to me. Even though I swim daily and take no medications, somewhere beyond the horizon, my death has saddled his horse and is heading my way. I want a better death than many of those I’ve recently seen.
She wants to intentionally prepare for a good end of life. She writes:
Imagine what it would take you to die in peace and work back from there. Whom do you need to thank or forgive? Do you want to have someone reading to you from poetry or the Bible, or massaging your hands with oil, or simply holding them in silence? Talk about this with people you love.
I am not sure what faith tradition she comes from, if any, but the exhortation to prepare for a good end of life is a good one. And here Simeon gives us some clues as to how to do that. Luke writes:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. (Luke 2:25–27 NIV)
The passage gives us a glimpse into Simeon’s life. He was a righteous and devout person who was led by the Spirit. His ability to have a good ending was the outcome of a life that believed God’s Word, a life led by the Spirit, a righteous life.
I do not know how my final days on earth will be. My dad passed away from a combination of congestive heart failure and diabetes-related complications. Mum is still with us but now bedridden and with advanced dementia. (Mum is ready to go anytime and wonders why the Lord is taking His time.) Some things we do not know. Some things we cannot control. But we can choose each day how we live. And that’s the best preparation for our departure. And how do we do that? Learning from Simeon:
- Trust in God’s promises.
- Be faithful to His assignments.
- Live a righteous life.
- Walk close to Him so that you can feel the promptings of His Spirit.
Age 64 is a good time to re-embrace Simeon’s framework of faithfulness. And if my death is indeed saddling up, he comes at the bidding of his Master to welcome me home.