Pili Abouchaar, the Director of Grandly, interviews Mike Shaughnessy about his latest book.
PA: Mike, you have just finished your seventh book, one that I think every grandparent should read – although it isn’t about grandparenting. Eternity Bound might just be your most unusual book yet. Let’s start there. Why that title?
MS: Being bound for eternal life is our great destiny. This book looks at the end of our life’s journey—the process of aging and dying—and the grace that can be found in that journey.
PA: Most people tend to look at aging and dying as a sad thing and they try not to think about it too much.
MS: True, the last part of life, getting old and dying, looks like the worst part of aging as our bodies and minds fail us and our pain and suffering increase. This book looks at all of this honestly. It is important to anticipate what might come rather than pretend there won’t be any troubles at all!
Aging, getting old, suffering, dying and death are the last five steps of life; You slip-slide, then wobble, then shuffle, then stagger and then fall. It would be foolish to say aging and dying don’t have a real downside. We should prepare for those realities ahead of time so we can face them better when they come.
PA: Is there an upside?
MS: Absolutely! Life is a spiritual progression. It becomes more spiritual as we age. The end of the process is richer but also harder to understand than any period we have already lived through. Aging, getting old, suffering, dying and death have a blessed upside. There is amazing grace given in those final five steps. The more I talk with those who are aging and dying, the more I hear about God, heaven, peace and thankfulness. I hear less talk about politics, sports, and personal success. God provides abundant and subtle new grace as we approach the most important event in life…our death.
As you begin to see your final event on the horizon, you often have more time for contemplation. You are perfected through suffering. You tend to grow in thanksgiving and, in death, you actually yield your life fully into the hands of God. The entire end-of-life process unveils a unique beauty and brings an unexpected joy. It can be a time filled with grace if we know how to look at the end of the journey properly.
PA: Your subtitle is Reflections on the Grace of Aging. Say more about this particular grace.
MS: It often comes at odd times and in strange ways. There is a quiet conversion that happens later in life. The change is not dramatic or instantaneous. It is usually silent yet awe-inspiring like a winter sunset—no crickets or frogs—just you and the sun. You feel more often drawn to God, more thankful, more reflective.
In the grace of aging, we are being wooed. The Holy Spirit is nudging our hearts and minds in unanticipated and subtle ways. We see beauty where we never saw it before.
PA: Can you give me an example?
MS: In the last months of her life, my mother began to drift off in conversation at times. She seemed to be looking beyond me even as she was looking at me. I couldn’t tell what was happening. Was she trying to think of something? Was she thinking at all? What I saw was an emptiness swallowing a life, a person, a face, a friend, a loved one. I was unsure about how to respond to that. I wanted to enter whatever reality she was in but I couldn’t and that saddened me greatly. But then I came to see that these moments were the end of one thing and the beginning of something else, something holy, but unknowable. There was a sacredness in that cloud of unknowing. I saw it but I could not enter it. It was a different presence of God. “Precious in the eyes of God is the death of his faithful ones.” I was watching God do something precious, profoundly beautiful, and truly mysterious in my mother’s life.
PA: But your book doesn’t end there. There is another step, the most positive one.
MS: Correct. Resurrection and eternal life. We are eternity bound. The final set of reflections are on what happens after we die in Christ. Lee Strobel said: Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good; he came into this world to make dead people live. There is nothing quite as astounding as the fact that death is the gateway to eternal life. The worst thing that can happen to us leads to the best. Ultimately, the grace of aging is hope; the hope of eternal life for those who are eternity bound.
Eternity Bound will be available on December 3, 2023 through Amazon, as are all of Mike’s previous books. Consider gifting one to a friend or relative for Christmas this year.