In eight days, I will be 68 years old. I was born at 3:55 p.m. on June 8, 1942 in Chehalis, Washington, the first living child of my parents, Mona and Merritt Ketcham. Two brothers had been born in the years before my birth, James and Charles. I was the first baby carried to term.
I don't know what effect these too-premature-for-the-times babies' deaths had on my parents, though the writings my mother left behind seem to indicate a certain stoicism and steady belief that they were in the arms of Jesus. Somehow they carried on, managing seminary and the Great Depression and poverty with grace, and when I was born, my dad was in his first pastorate in Mossyrock, Washington, at the Mossyrock Community Church.
Sixty eight years later, I am in a pastorate in Freeland, Washington, having benefited from their steady grace and deep faith and having the natural or nurtural resources to find happiness, though the world is increasingly messy and tormented by humankind's mistreatment.
I am finding that the days and weeks and months and years are speeding by more quickly than I could imagine. I remember when each month was endless, when I was living from paycheck to paycheck, hoping I could make it for the next week by judiciously parceling out the sparse funds in my bank account, even floating a check at the grocery store on the last days of the month, hoping the paycheck would make it to the bank before the check cleared. The Favorite Son seemed always to be in some kind of growth spurt, eating constantly and outgrowing everything.
Friends tell me I don't look like I'm 68 and truthfully, I don't feel like I'm 68. My dad had been dead for eight years when his 68th birthday rolled around. I have outlived him by eight years and during those eight years, I have marveled that I have been given this gift of time. His health problems presaged mine, but by the time mine were discovered, medical science had progressed enough that mine could be easily fixed.
My mother would have been 100 years old this August, had she lived past her 84th birthday. I figure I probably have at least another 16 years, likely more, as I also have escaped some of her health concerns by being born after penicillin prevented scarlet fever from damaging heart valves. She was not so lucky.
So here I am at this young age of 68, watching time fly by and wondering what the future brings. What does the rest of my life look like? How long will I stay on Whidbey Island? Will I ever get to live on the Oregon Coast? Will I ever be able to live close enough to my son and his family that I can see them more often? How long will I be able to be an active, energetic minister? Will my brain ever fail me? Will my own efforts to control my health without medications be enough? Will I find a life's companion who can put up with me for the next (at least) 16 years? And will I be able to put up with him?
It's another rainy morning on the island, it's Memorial Day, and the newspaper is full of bad news. My friends whose son recently died are managing, heroically, to offer the now-annual Veterans Tribute event to the larger community, despite their grief. I will be there to support them. And then we will meet this week to begin planning his Memorial service.
May this Memorial Day have deep significance to you, my friends. May you give thanks for freedom, for health, for friends and family, for the many gifts of life which outshine the sadness and destruction so pervasive in today's world. And may you do what you can to make others' lives easier. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.