Second Chance: Life After Death

"The fifteen years since I died have been the best in my life," says Marvin Barrett, the author of Second Chance: A Life After Death. This, despite two coronaries, a stroke, lymphoma, prostate cancer, congestive heart failure and the cardiac arrest which caused his death at 63 in 1984. Barrett wrote of that earlier event with moving clarity in the critically acclaimed Spare Days. Now he takes up the story where he left off and tells how sickness and old age contributed to a decade and a half of rewarding living.

It is an immensely heartening story which should give encouragement not only to those already living out their later years, but those who are still dreading them. "Not to worry," is Barrett's message for the rest of us struggling through their middle years. "Your later years will have more in common with the discoveries and wonders of childhood than the tumults of youth or the ephemeral triumphs and defeats of maturity. "Shame is a thing of the past, along with fear and dread and disappointment..."

"Old age is blessedly and deservedly above the fray," says Barrett. "It is the crown of life and not its shroud, and a hard won wisdom and a new insight should be its ornaments."

"The exercise of patience, a heroic virtue in the young, is a necessity in the old who are confronted by a kingdom of heaven in an ever more explicit way," says Barrett. "Still, if we must be patient, the patient God seems most terrifying. What does he want of us? What is he waiting for? Why does he stand there saying nothing?"

In between the slings and arrows and afflictions mentioned above, Barrett managed pilgrimages to India and the Holy Land and even had the courage and strength to return to his roots in Des Moines, Iowa.

Not only did these trips provide revelations, but day-to-day living in the city and countryside around New York was illuminated by many closely observed epiphanies. Some of Barrett's conclusions after 15 years of senior living:

  • Every negative experience in one's later years, sickness, loss of faculties, etc., is accompanied by a positive revelation
  • Wisdom and sympathy for one's fellow man and woman grow with each year
  • Peak experiences are more characteristic of the last quarter of one's life than the first three
  • Shame is a thing of the past, along with fear and dread and disappointment. The old are shameless, fearless, indomitable, or if they aren't, should and will be
  • Wonder returns to the old. There is a new vision of nature, a new understanding and sympathy for animal and human creation
  • The present takes over for the old---regret for the past fades away and apprehension about the future. Life is a minute by minute revelation
  • There is a realization as the great traditions teach us of the sacredness of every second, every action and thought
  • It is a great relief in old age to realize there is no need to be better than one's fellows, brighter, more handsome or beautiful, richer, more talented, and the disappointment and frustration at being less of these things that one may have felt fades away. Age is a great equalizer, not because we are all ground down by it, but because it reduces us to what we have always been---children of God---at the same time that it establishes us as everybody's equal. Old age is the real democracy

When speaking of God, Barrett says in his book, "The fact is there is no getting away from Him. The absence of God is God---no God is God. The people who deny God are only saying that someone else's idea of God neither pleases nor satisfies them. It is God who allows them to deny Him. The inescapability of God is the nature of the world---the blind spot in every philosophy, in every alternate explanation, is God---that shadow of indeterminacy that hangs over everything is God's shadow. Chaos is God. So just as we are all equidistant from death, we all are or will be equally close to God. Survival is the central miracle of life." Read this book and see if you don't agree.


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