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Nine Decades and Counting

Nine Decades and Counting

by David G. Duggan ©
Special to Virtueonline
September 28, 2021

A friend from church just celebrated his 90th birthday. Twice a survivor of heart surgery--and more recently from Covid-- he has lived a life taking him from frontier farm to the pinnacle of the medical profession. A noted hand surgeon by trade he has worked in leper colonies and Indian reservations, African missions and university medical centers. And he only chose medicine because he believed he was too timorous to be a minister: his knocking knees in the pulpit would drown out the message he wanted to preach.

We met four years ago at an early morning service. Though short in stature with a tilted torso caused by his heart surgeries, he had a vibrancy to his passing the peace. For several years I accompanied him to college sports events, fall football and winter basketball. Barely clearing 5' he had been the basketball team manager before med school. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog," he told his taller teammates.

Ninety years is longer than any of my immediate forbears has "enjoyed" on this earth. I put "enjoy" in quotes as for them and many I suspect their last years were wracked with infirmity. Even if they didn't complain, you knew that they believed that their time had come and they were waiting for the inevitable. By contrast my friend seems not to share this viewpoint: he genuinely looks forward to the morrow.

The three-score and ten years allotted by the psalmist give a person time to mature, achieve and reflect. Four score given to the strong allow renewed chances to see what has been missing. The psalmist gives no guidance to those entering their 10th decade.

Perhaps coincidentally by common tradition Jesus lived only until He was about 30, before the effects of aging could diminish His body that bore the stripes for us. My friend is now three times that age, and three is a number with both divine and cosmic significance: the number of patriarchs and members of the Trinity; the planes of our existence and the divisions of time. Christ of course unified all--Deity and patriarch, time and creation--and my friend can look forward to His greeting: "Well done, good and faithful servant."


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