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Now I also lead a fortnightly group called ‘Nostalgia’ which is billed as ‘a coffee morning with a difference’ and its goal is to build friendships among the elderly while also addressing the problems of memory associated with growing older. For an hour and a half on every other Wednesday morning we drink tea or coffee and eat biscuits and do a number of fun exercises designed to create interaction within the group and to use the past as one of the ways to stir and strengthen memory.  Now I mention this group because I have seen the value of recounting the past and using it as a memory strengthening mechanism. Sitting and listening to old friends tell of the happenings of the past fifty years seemed to intensify or magnify all those benefits as it made me ponder on the workings of life being laid out, as this group talked.  

One of the things that struck me was the immense variety of experience. We had parted ways all those years ago and a few had run across each other in the intervening period but mostly we knew little of what had gone on in that half century. (What a long period it sounds when you put it like that.)  Linked to this variety of experience was another awareness – and this came about as four people shared their times with our old friend who had passed away and who was the focus of the service – and it was how little I knew of that man. He had impacted me half a century ago and I had seen him very briefly a few times since, but as these four shared his life with us, I couldn’t help but sit there thinking, “Oh my goodness, I hardly knew him at all!” Yet my life had been bettered by knowing him, as short a time as it had been. There must be something there about how we can impact one another for good, even if it is a brief encounter. The trouble is we don’t know most of the time.

I pondered about the tremendous range of people I have encountered in life and wondered how I impacted them, if at all. The danger of this sort of reflection is that is can be dangerous and I was aware I was also thinking, “I wish I had known him better”, with feelings of slight regret. But then those from the past shared and I found I was thinking the same thing about them. Why had I let all those years pass without contact? A couple of us talked about it and concluded that quite often we spend our lives just ‘coping’ or ‘surviving’. I have had three major career changes in my life and each job demanded a lot.  I have often said to my wife that I regret that I had so few memories of times with our children when they were young, but the truth is that I was often leaving home at seven in the morning and not getting home until seven at night. This leaves the weekend to become family times but that means only two sevenths of the week available to them when they were very young. She tells me it wasn’t that bad, but it feels like that. (Is that why I run ‘Nostalgia’, to dig up more memories?)

As I have listened to these life histories and pondered my own, I see life as being made up of such a kaleidoscope of experiences and, just like a real kaleidoscope (do you ever see them around these days?) the experiences are many coloured and the changes that come when life is shaken, are sometimes brought on purposefully by us when we make life-change choices, but also sometimes just come through circumstances that we neither saw coming, nor possibly wanted. Health changes and jobs change. Two of my career changes were forced into our consideration by changes in my place of work, once a change of location and once a change of management style creating changes that either made life more difficult or you got out. I risked getting out! Interestingly, every change of job/career meant a drop of salary of about 25% but our quality of life as a family went up and, yes, my salary did climb again. I did not end up as rich as I perhaps could have been, but family life prospered, and my kids seem to be doing OK without having had an expensive life style to grow up in (even though it would have been nice!)

I’ve heard people refer to ‘the rich tapestry of life’ –  and from the ‘underside’ (see the quotes below) it is a mixture of good and bad but here’s the strange thing that I find has come out of my recent talking with old friends, I am incredibly grateful for the whole package. We have lived the life - and survived!  It was an amazing roller-coaster. Yes, there were some tough times which I wished we hadn’t had and which if I had it all over again, I’d like to avoid, but actually as I ponder on the staggering number of good things, I am so grateful. As I said in an earlier paragraph, some of those things might have come as a result of decisions made and some just imposed themselves on us, but overall, I am so grateful. I have this strange sense though, that so much of this good I did not plan, it just came about and I was its beneficiary, but then I guess that that is what life is all about, and for those who think that way, as the ‘Thought’ pages suggest, there may be more to it than meets the eye, but however it is, I am grateful.  

In the light of these recent conversations, I am grateful for the encounters I had with these people, as fleeting as they might have been. I am grateful for the impact of these people on my life.  I am sure some of them aren’t aware of what they meant and one of the spin-offs of all this, is that I am determined to be more up front with people today and tell them how much they mean to me – today.  One person I encountered in this group, I did tell how much they impacted me as a young person and they were blown away by it. Why don’t we do it more often. How terrible if we go to the edge of life thinking (too late), “I wish I had said something more to…..” I was half expecting some of these encounters at this service but came away with so much more than I had expected. So, as we usually do, let’s finish with some quotes that might impinge on the things we’ve been saying. Have a good rest of your life!


The tapestry of life continues to be woven.  Occasionally a chance arises to repair an older, tattered piece of the weave.  Something happens to jolt our awareness back in time to an event that resulted in tears and rips.  With new, more mature vision, we see the circumstances in present time and have compassion for the unclear events of the past.  While the new experience is being woven into the design, the old rip is simultaneously being repaired.  All is well.   Bessie Senette

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something. Sandra Day O'Connor

It's hard to imagine anything more interesting than learning how we're woven into the enormous tapestry of existence. Where did our universe come from? How special is our world, and how special are we? Seth Shostak

I do think the challenge, in a way for me, is to write a narrative film and when you finish watching it you feel like it's a collage. You tell the narrative, you tell the story, but you feel like you've created this tapestry. But it also has a shape, a story. Shane Black

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

~ Mother Teresa

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.

~ Denis Waitley

I don't want to sit on the sidelines and not value the gift of being here. Instead of the idea of time ticking away, the grains of sand running out, I try to think of time as giving me another grain of sand, another gift. So time passing is an accumulation, rather than a diminishing.

Tori Amos

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