Westonbirt Arboretum is once again a riot of colour in all its autumn glory. Besides the awe-inspiring visual display, it is cause for deep thought that the tree is at its most glorious in the letting go of its leaves. A Westonbirt leaflet quotes John Stewart Collis: “That the decay of the leaf should be the glory of the leaf is a perennial encouragement to all”.
But is it? Will our final years be our most glorious or do most of us fear that our final years will rather be full of inglorious decay? Surely our final years should be our most glorious but until we learn to put the Elder and not the Child at the centre of society this will never be. We need to shift our focus away from the search for eternal youth and learn instead how to embrace grace-full final years. It is only when we learn that life must be understood backwards that we will learn the right values to teach, know the right priorities to be embraced and understand the right investments to be made.
The glory of the autumn leaf invites us to a different way to live. As children play with laughter amidst the autumn trees, may they also learn to dance with the elders of our society, learning that here is the wisdom that must shape their lives so that they grow to forge a society where all our final years can be filled not with fear but with glory.