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Vital Aging as a Spiritual Quest

An Essay by Janet O. Hagberg

My older brother and I have never been close; in fact, we had been estranged from one another for about 20 years. Four years ago I felt a strong urge to open my heart to him; so I made a scrapbook of his childhood and young adulthood. When I gave it to him, I could see he was moved by it, but unable to acknowledge his feelings, he could only say, “you have put a lot of work into it.”

Then my brother had a bad accident, ending up semicomatose in the hospital. I really thought he was dying, and I took that opportunity to whisper in his ear all the loving and forgiving things I have wanted to say to him face to face. He regained full consciousness after six days. The next time I visited, he started talking and did not stop for an hour. We covered a lot of ground in that hour: childhood, his near-death experience, addictions, remorse, and our relationship. I feel that I got my brother back in that hour, after long years of waiting.

Our lives sometimes seem to conspire mischievously to bring us face to face with the inner work that we need to do at any threshold of our lives, including aging. This work at its core is spiritual work because it frees our souls. Doing this work brings clarity, courage, humor, and joy as we embrace the physical, emotional, and intellectual losses and gains, the miracles that accompany the aging process.

Our call is to do the inner work that stands between us and a life of no regrets. It is not easy. In fact, the effort can be excruciatingly painful. But the interior freedom we feel on the other side is well worth the effort. Answer the call. Do the work. Feel the joy.

Janet O. Hagberg is an author, retreat leader, and healer. She has written seven books including Real Power and The Critical Journey. She is the retired executive director of The Silent Witness Initiative, an organization for prevention of domestic violence, and is a certified spiritual director. Her real passion is baseball.