Bruce Springsteen is 67, and Bonnie Raitt will soon be. Eric Clapton is 71; so are Van Morrison and Steve Martin. Lucinda Williams is 63. David Letterman and Emmylou Harris are 69.

Some of my students at Mars Hill University have grandparents who are younger than these entertainers who’ve been so much a part of my life. More than a few of my students have grandparents younger than I.

Until a few years ago, it was rare for me to go anywhere near a medical office. I had no accidental cuts that needed stitching or broken bones that needed resetting or infections that needed treating.

I had surgery twice on a football-injured ankle in my late teens and no surgery since.

I think I went nearly two decades without filing a single insurance claim.

In the last thirty days, I’ve been to the cardiologist’s office twice and the Cancer Center three times. The pharmacists at my local Walgreens know my name.

I take ibuprofen both before and after I play racquetball.

It’s not so much age that’s on my mind just now as stage—not years but seasons

I’m living in autumn.

Depending on the course and speed of Multiple Myeloma, I could actually be in winter—late winter.  I don’t know. 

It feels like autumn, both in these gorgeous western North Carolina mountains and in my heart: invigorating crisp air and breathtaking bursts of beauty as nature goes dormant.

In his poem, “Autumn,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “leaves are falling, falling as from far off, as though far gardens withered in the skies.”  Even the “heavy earth is falling from all the stars down into loneliness.” In fact, he said, “we are all falling.”  “And yet”:   

And yet there is One who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands.

All this falling: falling down, falling behind, and falling short. But there is the holding and the Holding One.

I live in the paradox of falling and being held and in the wonders which flame-out before everything burns away.

The gifts of this season are the slow healing of brokenness (which is not the same as curing), the regathering and reintegration of what was scattered and lost, and the hope which rises, against reason, in all the falling.

And, Van Morrison just released a new album: “Keep me Singing.”  The old guy still can.