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From Dry Bones to Living Hope: Embracing God’s Faithfulness in Late Life

Missy Buchanan
Upper Room Books, 144 pages

While in graduate school for counseling, I centered my thesis on helping older adults navigate the stormy seas of late-life depression, cultivating a desire from within to fight the stigma of growing older. Aging in a culture that wrongly prizes youth over elders amplifies the loneliness and isolation many older adults face as they aim to remain hopeful while aging. Missy Buchanan’s latest book From Dry Bones to Living Hope echoes what I found in my research: that later life can reunite us with ourselves, others and God if we confront our fears directly and engage the world with openness, curiosity, and love.

Buchanan is a well-known Christian writer on aging, and this slim volume offers a timely dive into lament and prayerful action for those in late life. The devotional opens with Ezekiel 37, and the prophet’s vision of dry bones returning to life serves as the backdrop for the 21 meditations that follow. As a trauma-informed psychotherapist, I was delighted to read her accurate words on the power of lament and belief that acknowledging our losses is the first step in moving forward. Buchanan writes that “laments are heartfelt prayers that express suffering and loss,” reminding us that God longs for our honest words in prayer as holy vehicles for the release of pent-up emotions — and there is a peace that comes from accepting reality as it is.

Each brief meditation includes a prayer of lament that expresses the core challenges our late-life elders face and ends with concrete steps to affirm their true belonging in the world. As a survivor of chronic pain, I was struck by how relevant Buchanan’s reflections are for anyone feeling left out in our ableist society of frenetic busyness. In fact, Buchanan’s simple suggestions – walking outside, writing a letter to a child, listening attentively to family members and extending generosity to strangers – are accessible to all; she makes aging yet another act of rebellion against the “more is better” capitalist mindset.

Buchanan’s laments range from feeling invisible, dealing with technology, risking vulnerability, and remembering the good among the losses, but her impassioned call to wise action is where the real magic of the book lies. I resonated with her meditation on forgiveness and finding the tension between acknowledging the hurt we have received and taking practical steps to release the resentments. Buchanan writes, “forgiveness is not about affirming past bad behaviors. It is about letting go of negative emotions that are causing you perpetual angst in late life.” What a necessary practice for the Christian and for all of us who desire ongoing relationships!

Buchanan’s passion for elders is as inspiring as it is compassionate, making From Dry Bones to Living Hope an essential guide for the pastoral care counselor, seasoned minister or seminary student in chaplaincy training. She offers a call to accept reality as well as a roadmap for moving forward, honoring what we strive for as Christians on the long road to glory.

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Jenn Zatopek is a writer and trauma-informed psychotherapist who hails from the flatlands of North Texas, where she lives with her partner, two spunky cats, and a burgeoning garden. Find her at theholyabsurd.com and on Instagram @theholyabsurd.

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