by Father Thomas Ryan, C.S.P.
Reviewed by Mary Moran
Fr. Tom Ryan’s book, Remember to Live! Embracing the Second Half of Life , is a must read! As we all have to deal with growing older, losing friends and family, this book is a very helpful and inspiring resource to help deal with aging, loss, illness, and death. I use this book as an ongoing inspiration -- having both a hard copy and one loaded on my Kindle. Readers are encouraged to make this a kind of workbook to be picked up and use whenever one theme or another is on their mind. Fr. Tom even has a helpful section on planning and making arrangements for our own death.
As people live longer, Fr. Tom emphasizes that “we need to take a fresh look at the possibilities of this time in our lives. . . . There are aspects of life to discover in aging that we could not have known early on.” Fr. Tom highlights and discusses five important suggestions for orienting ourselves to aging and embracing aging gracefully: (1) Maintain a positive vision of yourself; (2) Reread your personal history; (3) Face the limitations and losses associated with becoming old; (4) Little by little, accept depending on others and not just on yourself; and (5) Discover the meaning of life and continue to savor it.
A number of significant sections in this book deal with facing mortality in others and ourselves. As Fr. Tom points out, there is very little in our culture that supports facing our mortality, especially in TV advertisements, magazines, and newspapers. All around us, we are told that if we get enough sleep, take the right vitamins, and exercise regularly, we will live indefinitely. When I have friends and family experience the death of a loved one, I give them a copy of Fr. Tom’s book, to help them get through the excruciating pain of such loss.
The book is full of many inspiring strategies to confront difficult challenges. For example, “younger friends can serve as mentors and coaches to keep up in the game with digital technology that enables us to stay connected.” “The aged person is no longer defined by possessions, but by this new capacity to receive gracefully what is offered.” The book notes that “It is important that we choose to begin a new kind of life, a life that, while being related to the past, is full of its own promise and possibility. We must see what we do in this new phase of our lives as good, and we must find it life-giving for ourselves as well as for others.”