The Sunset Years
“It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate ...
Shall we sit idly down and say
The night has come; it is no longer day? ...
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress;
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.”
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What magnificence, what affluence of color, what splendor and glory are heaped and piled in the western sky at sunset. Behind are the toil and problems of the day and the quietude of evening invites all to rest.
As sunset fades into night, the stars twinkle in clusters and stillness replaces the clamor of the day. It is then the heavenly Father gives the weary sleep. A mature, mellow life, dedicated to Christ, is comparable, in some ways, to a beautiful sunset.
Someone spoke of such a person as follows: “She is 94 and has been bedridden for more than a year with a broken hip; but her mind is clear, and she is really happy.
“She has the little chuckling laugh of 40 years ago, and she always enjoys a good joke. She hasn’t a complaint to make. Everybody is good to her, she says, and everything that is done for her is just right.
“She is a wonder and a blessing in the home. She is walking on the sunny side of the street, just as she always did.”
That dear lady had learned well to be joyful, to look up, to look ahead. In contrast, Jean Shaw told of a man who was walking down the street one day when he spied a dollar bill in the gutter.
He spent the next 20 years of his life walking with his head down, hoping for a similar piece of good fortune.
He missed seeing the trees bud in the spring, the geese flying south, the sun set. His back grew so humped he couldn’t lift his head. He saw a lot of gutters, but he never again found a dollar bill.
Shaw reminds us that we can spend the last decades of our life searching for a duplicate of some earlier experience. For example, we may resist our minister’s attempt to change the worship service.
If we could only recapture those particular moments when life was so intensely sweet! However, what is lost is lost. We must be alert for the delights that today will bring.
“Eighty-six years,” was Polycarp’s answer, when required to deny the truth, “have I served my Savior, and He hath never done me any harm; and shall I deny Him now?”
The furrows of care and lines of bitterness or frustration should soften with peace and contentment as sunset nears. Experiences of many years may have been trying, and they leave their mark.
Nonetheless, they lend character and beauty when touched with Christ’s presence. Every line is filled with meaning, and through and around and over the entire person glows an exciting air of expectancy of what is to follow.
As he looked into the next world, Joseph Jennings exclaimed, “Beautiful! Beautiful!” “It is indeed a beautiful morning,” rejoined his weeping wife. “Shall I open the shutters to give you a better view?” “Oh! I have looked a great way beyond the shutters!” the grand saint concluded.
Close on the hills of the sunset years is sundown. Yet, darkness need not follow, for one can move from sundown to sunup with one short step, having lived an exciting, productive life for the Lord.
Sunset drew near for a certain brother. At the age of 84, he was tired and yearned for rest.
During a Wednesday evening prayer service, he gave approximately the following testimony: “I am tired, and I would like to go on and be with my wife. I am ready to go on to heaven, and I would like to go soon if it pleases God.”
The following Sunday morning he slipped quietly out of this life and into heaven to be with his dear wife and with his God. What a victorious way to enter the sunset!