Thomas Ryan is director of the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, D. C. He leads ecumenical retreats and parish missions and is the author of 14 books. In this paperback, he asks us to take a long and hard look at aging, illness, loss, and death. By engaging ourselves with these realities, we are ushered into a fuller and deeper life. Ryan hopes that Remember to Live! will be used as an educational tool or for personal growth-and-development support groups. That is why at the end of each chapter you will find questions for reflection, exercises, poems, and prayers.
A thoughtful quotation from Joan Chittister sets the tone for what follows:
"Aging is not enough in itself. Aging well is the real goal of life. To allow ourselves to age without vitality, without purpose, without growth is simply to get old rather than to age well as we go. We must be a gift to the world someway, somehow, for someone."
Aging is not just about losing strength and stamina; it is the right time in life for "bringing together the fragments of varied experiences in our lives and holding them as one." As we plow through the dynamics of growing older, Ryan recommends five strategies:
1. Maintain a positive vision of yourself.
2. Reread your personal history.
3. Face the limitations and losses associated with becoming old.
4. Little by little, accept depending on others and not just on yourself.
5. Discover the meaning of life and continue to savor it.
In successive chapters, Ryan discusses the spiritual teachings that can come from illness when we learn to surrender; from the little letting go's that come with losses (divorce, the death of a loved one, unemployment, money worries); and from doing the inner work that comes from facing our own death and the ideal of "a good death." He also shares seven ritual elements for healthy grieving.
Ryan puts the last two chapters in tandem: "Life After Death" and "Your Life Now." Our deepest spiritual selves are expressed in the ways we live right now in the kingdom of God.