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It’s the Fourth Quarter

Independent Living and Realities of Aging


Independent Living residents of Beacon Hill at Eastgate meet every week with Chaplain Howard Earle to discuss the realities of aging. Every week during this class, “Nobody Asked Me,” they discuss new topics. This week, the topic is “The Fourth Quarter.”

It’s the Fourth Quarter

Recently, a friend and I were talking about the outstanding success of the Detroit Lions and the heartbreaking end to an exceptional season. They were literally one half or 30 minutes away from playing in their first Super Bowl. Being the Dallas Cowboy fan that I am, I don’t know much about the Detroit Lions history, but I’ve watched enough of them over the past few years to see they’ve had their struggles finishing games. If NFL games were three quarters instead of four, we would possibly be preparing to watch them play the Chiefs in this year’s Super Bowl instead of the 49ers. I’m sure no one felt the urgency of the fourth quarter more than the players and coaches on the field that fretful day.

Urgency was the word that kept coming up as we discussed the implications of the “fourth quarter” in a recent Nobody Asked Me (NAM) group. It was interesting how everyone in the circle understood the metaphor of the fourth quarter whether they were sports enthusiasts or not. Effortlessly, we all agreed that the fourth quarter implied the end. The conversations always begin lighthearted with laughs as we reminisce and share personal stories. We chuckled over fourth quarter comebacks as well as fourth quarter heart break. But it did not take long for the metaphor to come to life as we openly discussed living in the fourth quarter of life. While no one knows how much time they have left on earth, the safe assumption is, for senior adults, more days are behind them than in front of them.

There are primarily two perspectives we view the fourth quarter from. Either we are playing from behind or we’re protecting the lead.  Both positions can create a sense of urgency. What does being in the lead or winning in the fourth quarter of life look like? Most of the answers from the group revolved around having an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. Relationships are healthy, financial affairs are in order, and you’re prepared to leave a solid legacy. While there are some boxes that won’t get checked, should today be the last day on earth, the sentiment is I’m the winner when the clock is at zero.  The intent was not to make life a competition with winners and losers, but rather to think of life as a contest with only us with the goal of finishing well.

The second perspective that creates urgency is playing from behind. The fourth quarter is the constant reminder that time is limited. The game will soon be over. Time is spent evaluating play and ascertaining what caused us to fall so far behind. What mistakes did we make?  What opportunities did we not capitalize on?  What chances did we squander? We must dig ourselves out of this hole and time is not on our side. It’s GO TIME! What does playing from behind in life look like? Do you have any unfinished business; any loose ends to tie up; any broken relationships that need to be prepared? These are the questions that came to mind as we allowed ourselves to feel the tension and anxiety of playing from behind. We no longer have the luxury of a full four quarters. You’re behind, but there’s still time on the clock.

You’re in the fourth quarter of life. What’s your strategy to ensure victory? How do you plan to finish well? Unlike sports, in the game of life you can play from behind and protect the lead simultaneously. As we do in every NAM group, our discussion ended with greater resolve to live. Yes, the clock is running, but let playing the game well be the priority over obsessing over the clock. I don’t know what it looks like for your life, but in the fourth quarter you must manage the time, play aggressively, but smart, eliminate mistakes, and give it your all!

Join us for candid conversation about aging on Mondays at 2:00 pm in the Vistas Garden Lounge and Tuesdays at 9:30 am in the Chapel.

You belong here.

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Beacon Hill at Eastgate is a distinctive, not-for-profit retirement community located in Grand Rapids’ desirable Eastgate neighborhood.

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