I saw an announcement of the publication of Waiting for the Last Bus in the newspaper, and thought I would read it as I am working on a new novel about religion, death and growing old. I was further attracted to Waiting by the fact that it is written by the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway.
Holloway, clergyman, writer and broadcaster, was born in Scotland in 1933, educated at Kelham and Edinburgh Theological Colleges and Union Theological Seminary. From 1958 to 1986 he served as curate, vicar and rector at parishes in Scotland and the US. In 1986 he became Bishop of Edinburgh and in 1992, Primus (presiding bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church); he resigned both positions in 2000, and adopted an agnostic world view.
Waiting is a brief (156 page), erudite book filled with poetic quotations, and it reads like a rambling valedictory. It has tones of human optimism as well as pessimism in the loss of loved ones and the doubt of existence after death. Holloway recalls many experiences of ministering to the bereaved and the dying, ranging from the uplifting to the tragic, but all genuine and thought-provoking. Holloway quotes from scripture, not to make a point about faith, but to strengthen an assertion about human nature. The spectrum of issues which Holloway addresses is virtually all-inclusive: the history of attitudes toward death, heaven and hell, aging, the fight for survival, the imperative of death, religion as the human response to existence, predestination, forgiveness, near-death experiences, reincarnation, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, cryo-preservation, memory and remembrance, the death of a child, the meaning of the universe, obituaries, and grief.
For me, one observation I could take away is Holloway’s assertion that people can be divided into four categories by religious or agnostic vs fearful or acceptance of death. I put myself in the religious and accepting category (though with a twinge of concern).
And I would have liked to hear more from Holloway about his personal beliefs and why they are what they are. My curiosity is precipitated by his renunciation of formal religion. OK, thanks for the in-depth discussion of the issues, now, tell us, wise old man, ex-clergyman, and thoughtful writer and philosopher, what is your opinion?
I have no hesitation in recommending this book. It is thought-provoking, well-written, balanced in its message and not too long.