by Dr. H.R. Moody, Human Values in Aging Newsletter, May 2022. Used with permission.
Light of Setting Suns: Remembering Richard Morgan
It is unusual for experts on aging not only to live into advanced age, but also to write about it with the voice of experience. Dr. Richard L. Morgan, who died on March 25 at age 93, was such a rare person. Dr. Morgan was a Presbyterian minister and much else, too: a widely read author and founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Clergy Network, the first national advocacy coalition bringing all faiths together against Alzheimer’s. He called his work “the legacy of the last chapter of my life.” Richard Morgan never had dementia himself but he understood loss and vulnerability. He understood more, too. In his words:
“As I reached my nineties, I became all-the-more aware of diminished control. Loss of control had begun earlier, when I was no longer able to drive and had to rely on my wife or the community van to get to the store or to a doctor’s appointment. That was a big blow to my ego, for I had always prided myself on being in control of my life. Now, I was experiencing the loss of freedom to move about and to choose what I did and when I did it.”
Dr. Morgan’s frailty inspired his own legacy work, undertaken in the light of a Spirit larger than any individual life. Again, in his own words: “Three temptations of older people are to decline, to whine, and to recline. But there is a fourth option, a worthwhile one: to shine with the Spirit.”
Whether frail or not, Richard Morgan was shining with the Spirit until the end. Those of us who knew him in person will mourn his passing. The thousands who read his words or experienced their own time of vulnerability may also mourn but can be inspired by his life and his legacy.
The excerpts above are from Richard Morgan’s last book Light of the Setting Suns: Reflecting on Realities and Mysteries at Ninety Years of Life (Upper Room Books, 2021).
Editor’s note: In addition to the numerous Upper Room Books written by Dr. Richard Morgan, he provided leadership along with Dr. Richard Gentzler on a number of occasions for older adult ministry events over the years which were sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church.