It may be bucking the trend to see one’s own ageing process in such a confident light; growing old boldly, as the subtitle of this new book recommends, is a positively counter-cultural approach. Yet writer Wanda Nash did just that – she grew old regarding the twists and turns of her later years as an ‘adventure’. Her unique take on what it is like ‘being old’ owes much to her oft-repeated theme that we are human ‘beings’ not human doings.
Come Let Us Age!: An invitation to grow old boldly is published posthumously and is co-edited by her daughter, Poppy Nash, and friend Debbie Thrower, team leader of Anna Chaplaincy (previously The Gift of Years).
‘Wanda features in the Gift of Years DVD,’ Debbie explains. When filming a few years ago, she spoke of her excitement and growing sense of anticipation at the thought of death and of being with God.
As it happened, within a few years she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her confidence was well and truly put to the test. Yet, unflinchingly, Wanda faced her treatment and physical decline with style and aplomb.
She would make copious notes in her journals and extracts from some of these complement the core of the book which, originally in manuscript form, Wanda passed to Debbie with the words, ‘if it is useful to anyone, please get it out there.'
In this book, she answers questions such as, ‘What is old age for?’ ‘Would God like an empty space which only he can fill?’ and ‘Being old and ill: where is God?’
She was a writer and retreat leader, had been UK Chair of the International Stress Management Association, and the book contains practical breathing exercises devised over years of helping people combat stress and avoid burn out.
Stillness was something Wanda advocated as necessary for us all. Her Grove booklet, Simple Tools for Stillness (Grove, 2005)introduced many people to the benefits of taking time out to consciously sit still and be silent. She led cathedral ‘Stillness’ sessions in Winchester, and memorably brought people of different faiths together believing in the power of silence to foster harmony and greater understanding between people of all faiths and none.
This is a determinedly hopeful book which shows a way of living into old age with not only greater confidence but clarity of purpose. Wanda’s insights bring to life the wisdom, faith and humour of old age for the benefit of younger, and future, generations.
This title can be ordered from BRFonline