The older I get, the less I fear death and the more I fear living too long. This thought came from a recent Wall Street Journal article on conducting end-of-life discussions. The illustration for the article showed the hands of a younger person holding a pair of older hands. The implication is of a wise younger person bravely supporting an older person facing death.
I had to laugh. Almost always it is the younger person who needs the support. The older person has dealt with the prospect of death for a long time, seen it take away many friends and loved ones, understands it, accepts it, and may even welcome it. This is the wisdom we have acquired. Death is only new and frightening to the young.
One of our classmates thinks I am morbid by even thinking of my death. He expects to live well into his 90s, but he is assuming the vitality he has now will always be there. Maybe he is right. Maybe he will be one of the lucky few. For most of us, 90s means bedridden in a nursing home, spending every day alone in front of an unchanging TV ( the caretaker has left the remote sitting on the bureau out of reach), just waiting either for the next bland meal to be served or to be lifted onto a bedpan. Every day, nothing but in one end, out the other, over and over. Just tell me which end to open up next. What tedium!
Come here, younger person. Don’t look so serious. Put your hands in mine and I will explain it to you. When I look at my grandchildren, or any child, I realize my death makes their life possible, and that is a bargain I’ll take any day. A deathless world would have to be birthless, too, and who would want that? Death is the debt we accept when we are born, and now the bill collector is coming up the sidewalk. He comes to all of us eventually. No big deal.