Debbie Harry, lead singer with the 1970s band Blondie, was 67 last Sunday. This is alarming. In my mind she will always be 34 – the age she was when I was 18 and listened to her records.
Certain people should be certain ages. Clergy should always be in their late 60s and worldly wise, grey and lined, carrying the marks and the bruises of four decades of work, and even if they’re not, they should think they are. Pop stars should never be more than 35, or perhaps 40, if the more mature image suits.
I am troubled sometimes when I meet someone from twenty or thirty years ago, I don’t mind that I have got much older and have gone grey, but I expect them to be as they were when I last saw them. Sometimes there are reassuring moments. This evening an old friend became rector of a Co Wexford parish, he is unchanged from the 1980s.
The expectation that people should not change is strange, perhaps a projection of my own fears of ageing and death on to others, but it raises thoughts in my head about whether our pasts are lost forever.
A good lady of profound faith whom I knew very well died a few years ago. One question that caused her thought from time to time was what age we would be in eternity. Death held no fears, heaven was a certainty, anxiety stemmed from a fear that in heaven she might be the little old lady she had become. ‘What will we be like in heaven?’ she asked.
It was not a question I could answer, just as I could not answer it for a couple who lost their little son at 21 months old in the little rural parish where I worked for seven years, all I could answer to the question was that I believed that in heaven we would be at our best. The redemption of creation described by Saint Paul will also, I hope, include the redemption of time, allowing us to recapture moments that are important, allowing us, perhaps, to put right the mistakes of the past.
I fear these thoughts are very unorthodox – but should the Lord welcome me when the time comes, I think I would probably be happy with, for the sake of the records, being maybe 68, the age at which I might retire, and Ms Harry, if I should happen to meet her, would be no more than half of my age.