“He that would be well old must be old betimes.”

George Herbert, “Proverbs” in The Complete English Works, 268.

This saying has an old word in it, betimes. It can mean: “ahead of time” or “occasionally.” Whichever way you take it–the saying yields the same wisdom. If you want to flourish in old age, you have to think about it, occasionally, before you get there.

Now, you could take this too far: It would be foolish to begin obsessing about your old age while you are still in your youth. It’s also ill-advised to shrink back from activities or relationships too soon because you think “you’re too old.”

Admittedly, there is ambiguity here: The converse extreme (we’ve all seen it) is an old person who is in denial about their decline–and who is clinging dangerously to activities that they need to retire. The process of sorting out when to hang up the keys or move into a different home is agonizing for individuals and for their families.

And that agony is precisely the reason for thinking about it “betimes.”

You’re never too young to begin considering your legacy. At your funeral, The Living will eulogize your character over your entire lifespan. Work on it every day. They will speak about your love for them–how it was expressed. They will mention your sacrifices–how you faced them squarely with faith and hope. They will talk about your forgiving spirit, and your willingness to say “I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

“Readiness to die is the first step in learning to live.”

J.I. Packer