Lawrence Walter, Unsplash

Adventures while awaiting God’s call home

By  Harry McAvoy
  • November 30, 2023

I suppose I am one of the young, old. In January I will turn 65, and officially become a senior citizen.  Not long ago I spent a weekend with an old friend. During an evening of wonderful conversation he said, “you know Harry, we are in the prime of the rest of our lives.”  I thought his comment was noteworthy, so I wrote it down.

When speaking with another friend who has a few years on me he said, “I figure I have five, or maybe 10 Christmas mornings left.”  Another sobering thought, as I have been told given my memory loss, which remains undiagnosed, that I am aging five to 10 years ahead of my chronological age.  It was reinforced when a doctor told me, “You are deteriorating”; again, related to my memory challenges and a too large waistline.

What does one do with this less than sunny news? My response has been to keep living the two great commandments, loving God and neighbour, while remaining attentive to how God is working it all out. 

I’m in the final stages of completing a writing assignment, given as a gift to me by two of my daughters. They requested I respond to questions that they provided to share the story of my life. After months of early morning writing with regular memory assistance from Jennifer, my bride of nearly 40 years, my writing is almost finished. This project has given me a form of daily work, which the specialist said is so important for those living with memory issues. I am now in the proofreading stage and looking forward to having another project finished. It is my intention to give each of my six children a copy.

Another noteworthy adventure was recently completed. Jennifer and I spent two weeks in the south of Ireland. Think Cork, Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and a few final days in the beautiful town of Kilkenny. It was a dream come true, made possible by our dear friends Frank and Marion, who were our guides and who also secured accommodations with loved ones along the way.  We were inspired by the cathedrals and castles and enjoyed our evenings in local pubs. 

Thankfully, we took lots of pictures and I kept a journal to capture the major highlights and interesting tidbits to remind me of our journey.  On the flight home, I confessed with sadness to Jennifer that I had little recall of many of the places we had visited. Still, I said,  “I know I was there, and that has to be enough.”

How blessed am I, a man having lived with memory loss for more than six years, that I got to fulfill a lifelong dream with the woman I love, and our dear friends. God has been good to us.

On the trip home from Ireland, I remembered that our 85 lb. canine friend would be waiting for me.  Many months ago, Jennifer and our children decided it would be good for dad to have a companion dog to keep him moving.  Doctor’s orders, they said. While I didn’t want a dog, and still don’t, I have come to be rather fond of our Maremma named Millie, which apparently means “gentle strength.” Some days Millie follows my commands, but most days she drags me up and down the streets of Newmarket, as I pray my Rosary.

While life with memory loss can be sad and difficult, I decided shortly after the onset to keep living and contributing as best as I could. Just recently I started another season of co-facilitating a Confirmation group in our parish.  Tom and I lead a group of youngsters and their parents as the youth prepare to be confirmed in the spring. In addition, I was invited to be a sponsor in the Right of Christian Initiation program.     

As I live in the prime of the rest of my life, I am keeping busy, loving God and neighbour. While I don’t know how my memory loss will play out, I can still be a witness to the Good News, and I intend to continue until God smiles and says, “It is time to come home. “

(Harry McAvoy is co-author with his wife, Jennifer, of the book Faith, Love and Loss; Sustaining Hope amid Memory Loss and the Storms of Life.)

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