On October 23rd I retired at the age of 66 from my job of 9 ½ years with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And on October 27th my father of almost-95 years died.
I had planned to retire from CCAN next fall, but decided to do so now in part because of my dad’s seriously declining health. My sisters and I knew he could pass from this world at any time; his cardiologist had told him 3 ½ years ago that he probably had 1-2 years left.
As distinct from my mom’s illness leading to her death 10 years ago, my father’s was easier, though not easy. My mother developed Alzheimer’s in her 70’s and died at the age of 85 after suffering progressive deterioration over 8-9 years. My dad was her caregiver all throughout that time. It was not easy on him, but he was determined to do so until the end because of the deep love and appreciation he had for her, his wife of 63 years. She died at home.
My father was in pretty good shape up until about two years before his death. His last year was one of constant good and bad days, with clear weakening and difficulty in walking even with the aid of a walker. His mind and his memory got worse, but usually most of his brain kept functioning pretty well, which was a blessing to him and to those who knew him. His last few years were spent in an assisted-living facility which provided good and respectful care and allowed for many visits from my two sisters and me and our families.
My parents were progressive-minded people. Though not too activist compared with me, they supported my activism all through the years I have been about “world-changing,” since 1968. They were very religious; my father’s last job was as president of Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine, a United Church of Christ seminary. At his funeral service a couple of days ago religious music, prayer, hymn-singing and presentations predominated, as he wanted.
The minister who gave the main presentation, Rev. Peter Schmiechen, concluded his remarks by emphasizing what he knew my dad believed, at the root of his being: as much as good works are needed, reforms of society, the building up of institutions based on justice, etc., it is not enough unless human beings, and human society, realize that it is all about Love (God). As Paul wrote in First Corinthians 13, and as read during the service:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
These words were also read at my mom’s funeral service 10 years ago.
It is almost uncanny how I retired at essentially the same time that my dad died. One of the things it means is that I will have more time in retirement to do the other things, besides care of my father, that I planned to do: more writing, more time spent with Jane Califf, my wife of 36 years, continued work on the climate issue and other campaigns and issues–particularly right now with Beyond Extreme Energy and in support of the Sanders campaign–and other more personal projects that I’ll look into.
“Retirement” is a funny word. I suppose for some people whose work has been particularly boring, difficult and/or oppressive, it’s a word that fits. In my case, it’s different, since most of the paid employment I’ve done over the past 50 years has been in support of justice, peace, action on the climate crisis, youth leadership or related causes. And as I said at the retirement party CCAN held for me a couple months ago, I intend to keep working to solve the climate crisis and to change the world until the day I die.
As I do that work I will continue to do what I have tried to do as best I could up to now: be about the process of social change in a way which brings people together across lines of difference to work in a respectful and striving-for-equality way, and which helps others grow in their commitment, understandings, and grounding in Love, in the deepest and most powerful sense of the word. I am convinced, based on my life experiences and learning, that it is only by our movement as a whole doing so that we have a chance of preventing climate catastrophe and bringing about a much more just, ecologically stable and peaceful world.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.