Out of sheer curiosity, having landed on a site which advertised “Scottish Life Expectancy” I clicked and found myself asked to declare my sex and age. When I did so, it told me: Your average life expectancy is 88 years, giving me also a 2.5% probability of reaching 100 years. Well, for a Glasgow male of my generation, that seems not bad.

I have already tried to alter my perspective on death, recognising that I should no longer think of it as a vague, distant possibility, but rather as a near certainty, without however, succeeding. This prediction on the other hand, lets me look at a short span of years after which the Big Sleep will overtake me. I won’t deny that it challenges me, especially to do the things I should to benefit my dear ones. Indeed I would hope not to die before my wife who has restricted mobility and relies on me for daily assistance, as well as companionship.

Once these duties are done I cannot think that I am too bothered by my absence from land of the living: I’ve had a fortunate life, blessed with much happiness and moments of profound meaning. I’ve had the opportunity to express the best of what I am, and have largely been restrained from expressing the worst. I have been a citizen of a lively democracy seeking a greater responsibility for its own affairs. I have been a minister of a open-minded church which has struggled honestly to interpret the faith of Jesus for our times. What’s not to like? I can die content with the life I have been given.

I know however that the majority of human beings who have shared these almost 80 years of life on earth have not been so lucky, living in poverty or under oppression, suffering fear, disease hunger, pain, insult and insecurity. If there is for them no resurrection, no liberation, no divine restitution, then there is also no God. Because I believe in God, I therefore expect resurrection for them, and for me also, with the expectation of life with God, which. I suppose I may find a little, eh, stretching.

I am also sad to leave the planet in a worse condition than it was given to me. Whatever the result of Cop 26 in Glasgow, many catastrophic changes have already taken place, and will continue until my death and beyond it. It remains possible that human beings, having made so may species extinct, will eventually top themselves.

A a hillwalker I would especially be grieved at the disappearance of the Dotterel

This beautiful wading bird now breeds only on the highest mountain plateaux in Scotland because it needs almost arctic spring conditions, which are now vanishing from this land due to global warming. They have often been my only companions in the high tops offering their trustful, inquisitive presence, even when they were feeding chicks, a duty mainly done by the male bird. Fortunately suitable breeding grounds still exist in Scandinavia and the Arctic, but the increasing absence of this unique form of life from our terrain is a measure of the savage carelessness of Homo sapiens.

Calvin thought that the chief purpose of human life was to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. I like to think this is the chief purpose of all life; and am glad to have been able to share in the glory the dotterel has brought to its maker.

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