Turning 70 represents a graduation worthy of celebrating | Greg Asimakoupoulos

Two years ago, our 50 year class reunion was canceled due to Covid. But lockdowns and social distancing can’t keep the Wenatchee High School Class of 1970 from celebrating. We had a “50 + 1” gathering last fall with plans to gather for a “Class of 70 Turns 70” shindig later this year.

Upon reflection, we 70-year-olds have more reason to celebrate than we did when we were 18. When we received our diplomas, we weren’t really graduating with much life knowledge. What happened that warm June evening in 1970 was more accurately a commencement into the classroom of life experience.

Like countless gowned and capped graduates around the country this month, we heard graduation speeches. They were well-crafted messages. They were motivational calls to action. But the words were lost in the emotion of the moment. A graduation party awaited. So did one last family vacation, summer jobs and packing for college.

We could only imagine what awaited us: careers, promotions, unemployment, marriages, children, divorces, addiction, recovery, spiritual rebirth, cancer, death of parents, death of spouses, death of children. Back then we could not have imagined a global pandemic or the threat of climate change.

Now 52 years later, turning 70 represents more of a graduation worthy of celebrating. We are leaving behind the careers that defined our identity and entering the season most people associate with retirement. We are making peace with the fact that physical strength and beauty are fleeting and that things that matter most are not things at all. It’s a season to draw near to those from whom we’ve been far for far too long. It is a time to celebrate jobs well done, marriages well-served and friendships well-invested.

But this time our parents won’t be around to congratulate us. All our teachers, as well, have passed from the scene, except for one. And in the case of our class, close to 100 have received their eternal diplomas.

Turning 70 provides an opportunity to look back and look inside. It has a way of focusing the fleeting nature of time. We have come to clearly see how fast the years have gone. A classmate recently shared that the time we’ve been out of high school is the same length of time between the start of the Spanish Flu in 1918 and when we took our last high school final exam. Fifty-two years is the length of time from the end of World War 1 until we took our first pop quiz as college freshmen. Now that’s mind-boggling.

And do you know what else is mind-boggling? The threat of World War 3. After spending the majority of lives observing how a cold war could warm to cordial relations with the Russians, we find ourselves looking at our winter wardrobe in search of what to wear as a frigid political climate looms on the horizon.

Like every other high school graduating class in modern history, the Class of ‘70 finds itself in search of answers that can’t be found in the morning paper or the nightly news. With our forebearers, we too are called to seek Divine help even as we worship the God of our own understanding.

I take comfort from The Almighty’s invitation as found in the Old Testament calling us to admit our vulnerability. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.