Sunday I turned 65, and that’s a milestone age whose meaning is very different experienced than contemplated as a future event.
During WWI church leaders encouraged my grandfather to enlist in the military rather than go on a mission. He retired early at age 55 so he and my grandmother could have a formal mission experience before he died. He passed away 15 years later at age 70. Their service in the Northwestern mission was a significant event for their relationship. On several occasions when Elder Franklin D. Richards, their mission president, and his wife met Judy and me they never failed to comment on what great and faithful missionaries Israel and Clara Abbott had been.
My father served a two-year mission before his WWII military duty in the Pacific, and after he retired at age 63 he served two senior missions: one with my mother and after my mother passed away, a second with my stepmother. My father died at age 78. Judy, Kristen, and I visited mother and dad in New Jersey and saw first hand how meaningful the experience was for them. The stories from England with Dad and Renee’ demonstrate great faithfulness and service.
Today I am 65 and my worldly circumstances recommend that I work another 15 years so I can retire from state service and better be able to provide for our needs once I stop working. Good medical insurance has become increasingly important to us.
Our children have urged, instead, that I retire sooner and with their financial backing serve a church mission with Judy. They say that with such a large family to support us we shouldn’t worry about finances but serve missions and provide other church service while we still have our health and energy. That could require more humility and faith than I have. I’m not eager to be dependent on my children. But these promptings have helped me realize that I’d actually ruled out the possibility of serving a senior mission.
But now I’ve turned 65, and given all the mail about it we've been receiving, it seems to be a matter of public record. In addition to signing up for Medicare, we need to fully consider the options for our immediate future before rheumatoid arthritis and other early developing physical maladies deny our ability to serve.
We’ve been so busy raising our family and recovering from one set back or another through the years that unexamined considerations of the ability, or even desire, to serve a senior mission have snuck up on us. Perhaps our example will be a cautionary tale to our children about the importance of addressing important goals and long-range financial planning now.
I will ask our bishop about age and health qualifications to serve a senior mission; types of senior missionary service needed, and projected costs. Then I can check with my employer about the requirements for taking an administrative leave from work so Judy and I can serve before age and physical health issues close the mission door to us.
Even if we’re looking at a couple of years in the future, without gathering the facts and going to the Lord for timing and direction, going on a mission will just pass us by. And that would be a shame to break an Abbott tradition established by very faithful parents and grandparents.
Some milestones are more sobering than others, more shocking into action. Turning age 65 has been one of them. Additionally, children sensitive to the spirit and not bashful about speaking up have been very helpful.