Quotations on The Time Before Dying

It has been a long time since I posted a list of quotations about age and dying. In fact, it is probably years. But I don't stop collecting them – my god, people have a lot to say about death, at least in short form – so here are a few for your perusal and commentary.

Not too many today because quantity becomes overwhelming and they lose meaning. So just a few. Many wise men and women have left behind worthy ideas about death for us to ponder.

* * *

“It is too bad that dying is the last thing we do, because it could teach us so much about living.” - Robert M. Herhold
(As it seems to be doing for me.)

“For my part, I would like to die fully conscious that I am dying...slow enough to allow death to insinuate itself into my body and fully unfold, so as not to miss the ultimate experience, the passage.” - Marguerite Yourcenar

“...I count as the greatest good fortune to have these few months so full of interest and instruction in the knowledge of my approaching death.” - Alice James

“There is only one solution if old age is not to be a parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give existence meaning – devotion to to individuals, to groups or causes, social, political, intellectual and creative work. - Simone de Bouvoir

“The first part of life is for learning. The second for service, and the last is for oneself. It is a time for discover inner richness and for self-development and spiritual growth. It is also a time of transition and preparation for dying. The closer we come to death, the closer we come to reality and truth.” - Gay Gaer Luce

“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” - Dag Hammarskjold

Are there any short and pithy such quotations you would like to add?


A Day in the Life of Old Age

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Although this list is true, it is not meant to be overly serious. Try to see the humor.]

Toilet
Wash face
Brush teeth
Aim body toward kitchen
(don't trip on the oxygen cable)

Start coffee
Take first pill of the day
Lay out next two pills
Assemble nebulizer equipment
Spend 10 minutes breathing with nebullizer

Coffee!!!
Check phone for overnight messages
Check overnight email
Delete at least half of it
Send morning email greeting to my “are you still alive” buddy

Coffee!!!
Answer personal and blog email
Check the day's to-do list; delete what is possible to avoid doing
Read the morning news while listening to morning news for the latest
(Two hours have passed)

Take pre-breakfast digestion pills
Shower and dress – slowly
Prepare breakfast
Find reading material for breakfast
Round up breakfast digestion pills - eat

Clean up kitchen
Plan lunch
Have a 30-minute lie-down
Spend time (10 minutes to two-plus hours) planning next blog post
Work on blog post / answer incoming email

Second 10-minute nebulizer session
More blog work
Take a break with household accounts and mail
12 noon pills
Prepare, eat lunch

Clean up kitchen
One-hour lie-down or nap (or longer)
2PM pain pills
Nebulizer
Check to-do list and finish what I can

Edit blog post and set up to publish
Slow walk to trash and snailmail box
Small chores, water plants, lists, etc.
Sit quietly for awhile, maybe read
Begin dinner

Pre-dinner pills
Eat
Clean up kitchen
Count out next day's pills
Hot bath

Collapse on bed – movie, book, or...

Just look at this – it's all maintenance, every item of it and I've omitted at least half the chores along with phone calls, chatty email with friends, getting sidetracked with a magazine or book, etc.

I wrote all this out for myself a couple of days ago and was appalled at the banality of it. But guess what. If you don't count the pain when it happens and the chunk of time for blog work, it gives me a lot of hours to think about all the stuff I end up writing about here.

Not the mention time to think about all the stuff I don't tell you.

Still – it is kind of joke if you look at it that way. What's your day like?


A TGB READER STORY: Dancing with the Monkey

By Dave Clark who blogs at Just a Geezer

I’ve seen actors on the screen,
clowns at the circus
dancers at the ballet,
singers at the opera,
musicians at the concert.

But I have never seen anything to compare,
to my 2 year old grandson,
when he first saw a mechanical monkey,
playing a tune and smashing cymbals together.

The boy watches,
stomps his right foot, then his left,
leans to one side, then the other.
He giggles and laughs,
but best of all he smiles---no beams.

A grin that spans his whole face.
is worn like a badge
and shows he is in a perfect place,
loving every moment.
And as he sways,
he hasn’t the faintest idea what worry is.

My God,
I know that expression,
it’s pure joy,
something I have pursued my whole life,
but never found.

As he wobbles, claps, and bounces
he is as close to heaven on earth
as any human can be.
Maybe I too felt like him early in life,
but if I did, I lost it.
and never found it again.

If I could give him a gift,
It would not be money,
It would not be power.
It would be to help him keep that delight,
to stay so happy that others
feel gladdened by his very presence.

I don’t know how to do it,
I don’t where to find it,
I don’t even know what I’m looking for,
but I will do everything I can
to keep him glowing with happiness
the way he does
when he dances with the monkey.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Guidance For My Near Future

I'm not certain this is of much of a useful blog post or of interest to anyone but myself but what the hell, I'll write it down anyway so I have something to compare next week, next month, next...

Daily now I realize that what I was feeling yesterday, how much energy I had then, whether I slept well or not last night, how strong or weak I feel this morning, whatever I think I want to get done today – it is all under control of my body. I - that is, my personal self or intention - have almost nothing to do with it.

My body chooses what it will do now and it has taken me to an updated version of “man plans, god laughs.” In this case, “old woman plans, body laughs.” A different joke every time although they generally relate to waning.

In a head-slapping moment a few days ago, I realized resistance is futile. The body knows what the body knows and striving even for the smallest things has morphed into acceptance. If I can't get the trash out, it can go in the morning. That attitude fairly new for me – I've always been a get-it-done-now kind of girl.

Most of my life has been striving for something – a bigger, better, more successful TV show to produce, a script to write, a website to build, an award to win. Always a goal. I haven't dug that deep into it yet, but I suspect I will find I didn't need to do all that. That life would have gone on well enough, satisfactorily, without pushing so hard.

It feels good now to be just easing on down the road – or working on getting to that point.

Those of you who have been on this cancer/COPD trip with me from the start might recall that three-and-a-half years ago, as I was wheeled in the surgery for the massive Whipple procedure, I said I just wanted to live long enough to read the Mueller Report.

That, as we know, turned out to be a dud and my new goal for many months was to vote in the 2020 election.

AND I DID IT. We vote by mail in Oregon. I filled out my ballot on Saturday, my wonderful neighbor Judy dropped it at collection point at City Hall and for sure, I have never in my near-80 years voted in a more important election.

Having now performed this crucial act of public responsibility, I'm going to continue to slow down. I want to use the gift of time the universe has bestowed on me to consider and contemplate life, living, loving and then - finding a way to let go, when the time comes, in peace and maybe even joy.

But not quite yet – heh. I need just a little more time.


ELDERMUSIC: A Soupçon of Ellington

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

DukeEllington24

This is not an overview of DUKE ELLINGTON’s career; that would take several columns. Instead I’ve selected mostly small groups, rather than his orchestra because that’s my preferred option.

Also, most of the selections feature other famous jazz musicians, so if you like piano jazz in small combos, this is for you.

Duke & Hawk

Duke made one album with COLEMAN HAWKINS, but what a fine album it was. It has the prosaic title “Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins”. This was from 1962 and it’s surprising it took so long as Duke had been asking Hawk to collaborate for a couple of decades or so.

One of the tracks is a reworking of Duke’s Mood Indigo.

♫ Mood Indigo


Duke & Teresa

I always think of TERESA BREWER as a fifties pop singer, but there was more to her than that. In 1973 she recorded with Duke in what turned out to be his last recording session. That album is called “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing”.

From that we have Satin Doll, a song Duke wrote with Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Mercer.

♫ Satin Doll


Duke Ellington

Probably the most famous song associated with the DUKE is Take The A Train. It was written by Billy Strayhorn, a regular composer and arranger attached to the orchestra. The most famous version was recorded in 1941, but the one I’m featuring is just Duke with a drummer (Ben Riley) and bass player (Larry Gales).

♫ Take The A Train


Duke & Al

Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me was written as an instrumental by Duke back in 1940. Later Bob Russell wrote words to it and it’s been recorded by just about every good singer around (and a few not so good ones, I imagine).

One of the best of those is AL HIBBLER. Al is generally considered the finest male singer who performed regularly with Duke’s orchestra. He later sang some of the finest ballads in the fifties

♫ Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me


Duke & Trane

As with Coleman Hawkins, JOHN COLTRANE only made one album with Duke. That’s a real shame as this is a really fine record, and I suggest that you look out for it if you’re interested in jazz. It’s another with a prosaic title: “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane”. From that album here is Stevie.

♫ Stevie


Duke & Alice

C Jam Blues is another of Duke’s famous tunes. Everyone who is anyone in the world of jazz has recorded it. It’s usually an instrumental, but several folks put words to it and turned it into a song.

ALICE BABS, who was Swedish, and the Duke recorded an album together (“Serenade to Sweden”) which featured the tune (although the words aren’t readily discernable). To my ears Alice listened closely to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

♫ 'C' Jam Blues


Duke & Hodges

Unlike a couple of others in today’s column, JOHNNY HODGES and Duke Ellington made a couple of albums together. The one we’re interested in is called “Back to Back”.

Johnny is particularly soulful on this record and the backing band is first class - that’s Harry Edison playing the trumpet, Less Spann on guitar, Jo Jones on drums and Sam Jones playing bass. They play the old tune. Beal Street Blues.

♫ Beal Street Blues


Duke & Mahalia

“Black, Brown and Beige” was an extended jazz suite that Duke wrote and he and his orchestra performed it Carnegie Hall in 1943. Besides the recording of that concert, Duke also recorded the entire work in the studio with MAHALIA JACKSON on vocals.

There were a couple of alternate takes of some of the tracks that were included on the album. From that here is Part IV, also known as Come Sunday.

♫ Black Brown and Beige ~ Part IV (aka ''Come Sunday'')


Duke  Mingus & Max

Duke gets a bit more avant-garde than usual when he teams up with CHARLES MINGUS and MAX ROACH. It almost crosses over into free jazz. There were no rehearsals and everything on the album was the first take.

They were contracted to record a second album but tensions were so fraught among the musicians that it didn’t eventuate. From that first and only album here is the title track, Money Jungle.

♫ Money Jungle


Duke Ellington

I’ll end with DUKE on his own – you can’t get a smaller group than that. He plays Solitude.

♫ Solitude


INTERESTING STUFF – 17 October 2020

MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT NOBEL PRIZE SURPRISE

According to Twitter,

Comment thread is here,

SOCIAL SECURITY 2021 COLA increase

Last week, the Social Security Administration announced there will be a 1.3 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase for Social Security beneficiaries beginning in January 2021.

In addition, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $142,800 from $137,700. But wait, there's more.

”For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2021 are announced in December.”

That is, the new Part B premium amount is not available until then. You can read more here.

According to CNBC, some House lawmakers are proposing an emergency three percent Social Security COLA (in place of the 1.3 percent announced). This is just me talking, but I wouldn't count on it.

MAN SHELTERS 300 ANIMALS IN HOME DURING HURRICANE DELTA

ManShelters300dogsFromHurricaneDelta

”Hurricane Delta put everyone on high alert, including Ricardo Pimentel. He works in an animal sanctuary called Tierra de Animales in Mexico. He knew that he needed to protect the animals living there, so Ricardo did everything he could to ensure their safety during the hurricane.

“However, Ricardo knew that all the animals wouldn’t fit in the shelter and that the building wasn’t hurricane-proof, so he took the dogs, the cats, and other animals and brought them into his own home. There were about 300 animals in his house during the hurricane. Ricardo had a lot of food and other necessities prepared for the animals, so everything went smoothly.”

There are a lot more photos of the doggos, kitties, chickens and more at Bored Panda.

BULL REDUCED TO BEING GLORIFIED GOAT CLIMBING FRAME

Friend and TGB reader John Gear sent this sad outcome. Or, maybe the bull is enjoying himself.

WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO GROW THIS YEAR?

TGB reader Joared of Along the Way sent us this gem which, she says, she stole from WiseWomanWeb.

OlderCrankier

FOOD STORAGE HACKS

I don't know if any of these actually help food last longer but some of them seem worth a try.

Freeze And Preserve Fresh Herbs In Olive Oil
The herbs will infuse the oil while freezing, and the ice cubes are very handy for cooking: just pop one out and use as the base of a dish. Works best with rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Dill, basil, and mint should always be used fresh

HerbsinOliv eOil

Wrap The Crown Of A Bunch Of Bananas With Plastic Wrap
They'll keep for 3-5 days longer than usual, which is especially helpful if you eat organic bananas. Bananas also produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit, so keep them isolated on the counter

PreservingBananas

Store Potatoes With Apples To Keep Them From Sprouting
ApplesandPotatoes

The are a whole lot more food preserving hacks at Bored Panda.

BEARS FALLING OFF BROOKS FALLS

This time of year I usually publish live video of the bears at these falls catching salmon before their winter hibernation.

This time someone recorded a few of the difficulties they bears run into:

”While some bears make fishing on the lip of Brooks Falls look easy, others find holding their balance a bit more difficult. From Lefty's belly flop to Grazer chasing after her clumsy cubs, we've had many laughs watching over the years.”

My friend Jim Stone sent this video.

LOTSA LOTSA ANIMAL LOVE

From TGB reader Judy Carrino/

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


The Alex and Ronni Show -16 October 2020

Not that I set out meaning to avoid the president's name in this episode of The Alex and Ronni Show, but somehow Alex and I got to the end with it coming up only once – and we backed away as fast as we could.

This time we talked quite a bit about this end-of-life journey I'm on, riffing off the story I posted on Wednesday, Choosing a Life or Letting It Happen.

I think with Alex I got a lot closer to what I was trying to write on Wednesday but missed a few points then. See what you think.


Choosing a Life – Or Letting It Happen

Reflecting on the life I have lived is not something I have much dwelled upon during these several years of living with terminal cancer and COPD. I've always been more of a now person than a then one.

Not that I don't remember things or that they don't come to mind or up for discussion. But mostly, now is more compelling for me.

Perhaps it was true for you, too – that in school, there were two or three or four or so classmates who from a young age knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up and lo - they actually did that, doctor, lawyer, auto mechanic, whatever they fancied.

But not me. I had no earthly idea what I would do when I grew up – even when I grew up.

All I knew from my lower middle-class family was that it was up to me. Maybe it was not said quite out loud but the idea instilled was that my parents had gotten me to working age and now I had to follow through to support myself.

Looking back, my mother was right about insisting I take typing class in high school and that kept me employed for the several years it took until a career trajectory began to come into view. (An overview of my career is recounted here.)

Even though at the time I believed I was choosing this job, rejecting that one, making a lateral change for better pay, location, whatever, sometimes it has felt like someone or something else was making the decision.

It is rather amazing the number of interesting jobs that dropped into my lap over the years from unexpected telephone calls, even from strangers once or twice who had heard of me from someone and thought we should talk about working together.

Not to go all woo-woo on you but now and then I have wondered if I really chose the men or the friends and others in my life. Did someone or something direct all this? There are people who believe such things.

Without going down the free will rabbit hole, so speaking of this in the most prosaic sense, I have felt at times over the years that I have had nothing to do with my life, that it was written down before I got here and I'm just following the script.

At nearly 80 years into my life now, it is still kind of fun to ponder such notions, but there is a growing sense inside me, too, that I have arrived somewhere – that one way or another I am coming to enough. No more striving, just accepting.

But that imperative to survive I mentioned the other day is still deep and strong. My god, it does hang on; illness doesn't affect that. And there is still a great joy in living each day – well, each good one. And here is how part of that goes:

Many years ago, I worked for a woman I didn't like much. She didn't like me either. But we were both smart, good at our jobs and respected one another so it worked out.

One day I was surprised to learn that she was a boxing fan, that her father had taken her to all the matches he attended in their town when she was a kid and it had stuck with her.

Me? I blurted out rudely that I couldn't think of any more boring way to spend an evening. And then she said to me, “Ronni, everything is interesting if you pay attention.”

Since then, that piece of news has never failed me. Choosing my life? Pre-ordained life? That I am right on script during this final chapter? Or am I just getting weird in the late days of my predicament?

What matters is that all of it is just as interesting as everything else has been since JoAnn explained it to me.


The Face of Time

By Anne Burack-Weiss

“My contemplations are of Time
That has transfigured me.”


- W.B. Yeats The Lamentation of The Old Pensioner

It is said that by a certain age a woman has “the face she deserves.” And about 70 or so it becomes a map of the person within.

I have seen old women like that. Nuns. Vegans. Those for whom a swipe of chap-stick has always sufficed as a makeup regimen. You could imagine that they looked like they always had - themselves grown older.

I look like a different being entirely.

Yes, I overdid the red meat and red wine, baked in the sun before SPF 75, was often less than generous in word or deed. But hey, I was not the real life embodiment of Dorian Gray – whose suddenly uncovered picture revealed decades devoted to dissolute pleasure.

I anticipated a face where glimpses of a younger self could still be seen. I had imagined laugh lines, evidence of good cheer, soft white curls affirming a tender nature.

I had not imagined wrinkles flowing every which way, eyelids at half mast, elongated ear lobes, a nose that neatly nestles in the cross cut pleats of my upper lip - brown spots punctuating the terrain.

Transfigured is indeed the word. A metamorphosis, a shifting and sliding as inevitable as the grooves the receding tide etches on the sand.

I look to the photograph of my great grandfather – Isaac Lander. It is a studio shot circa 1930. He is four years younger than I am now, a decade past the biblically allotted three score and ten.

We never met. All I know of him is that he was born in a small town on the border of Lithuania in 1845, emigrated to Boston with a wife and five children at the age of 50. I cannot begin to imagine a life so different from my own.

And yet.

Remove the skullcap and replace with a color-assisted mess of curls, shave the beard but for a few random strands undetected in the 10X magnifying glass and there you have me - the hooded eye lids, the elephantine ear lobes, the nose like the front end of parenthesis.

I look again. He seems to be engaged with someone or something outside the frame. The expression in his eyes is soft, interested, curious. He looks weighed down by the years but still open to life.

Yeats concludes The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner, “I spit into the face of time/That has transfigured me.” But looking into Isaac’s eyes , I wonder...

Could it be that our old faces may not, in fact, be ones we deserve or even earn? Could it be that the vagaries of the lived experience – the choices we make in youth and middle age, the good and bad luck that comes our way, even gender differences take us only so far – until the immutable rules of genes, gravity and time take over?

We do our best, grow old (if we are lucky!) wither, die.

As I carry Isacc’s face – our face –from the 19th to the 21st centuries, I am as the flowering plants that cheer the days I spend indoors on cold winter days. They are something to look forward to as I come downstairs for coffee each morning.

I buy them when they are in bud, tend carefully through the height of their beauty and dispassionately view their withering. They may not bloom again. But somewhere gardeners are preparing new plants from their seeds.


Let's You and Me Have a Bit of a Chat Today

It didn't start out this way 16 years ago, but it has been a good, long while now since this blog became a more collaborative effort between you, dear readers, and me than just one woman's scribblings.

You supplied a bunch of terrific suggestions last week on the story, Age Friendly Adaptations, Adjustments and Workarounds and you leave plenty of other smart observations and thoughts that continue to help me in what I have been calling my predicament.

You also continue to embarrass me with lovely comments about how brave I am, how well I am handling this, how much I have helped you or that you have learned from me, as I write about moving forward toward my death.

For certain, I am no expert on anything. My knowledge after nearly 80 years on Earth is as wide as a prairie and shallow as a desert ditch. A little of this and that. No more.

However, after so long at it now, you have convinced me that I am providing something of value to a good many of you. Stuff that you print out and save in various ways and pass on to others. I take pride in that.

You are right, I think, that I have a good deal of common sense and an ability to accommodate with a measure of equanimity the slings and arrows thrown my way. I seem to have been born not a “why me?” person, but a “why not me?” person. And aren't I lucky for that. It saves a lot of grief and self-pity.

Before I get to where I intend to be going with this essay, let me take one little detour.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, I think, I that said in a housekeeping post that I am tired a lot now and I don't have the energy to answer all email that comes my way.

If I did not say so directly, let me do so now: that was meant to tell you to stop sending so much. There are thousands of you and one of me and it doesn't matter that you tell me not to answer. When I receive a nice email or one with a good idea for Saturday's Interesting Stuff, I feel the obligation of a thank you, and I feel guilty if I skip it.

Yes, that's on me, not you, but there is a reason I mentioned the word “collaboration” at top of this post and I need you to step up a little.

Two or three mornings ago, I opened my email inbox to 28 (!) reader emails. In fact, one reader had sent nine of them. A few others sent two or three and then there were the singletons. I was defeated.

Most had attached an MP4 video file, almost all of which never play correctly and I am announcing now that I officially will never try to open one again.

Plus, I've been riding the internet video horse-y every day since about 1992. Except on the rare occasion it is something brand new, only twice a week or so does someone send a video I haven't seen before.

So, unless you can send me a link to an established, online video service like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter etc., that allows re-posting, then don't. I don't have a lot time left for foolin' around with poor technology.

Back to my original intent:

Just about every philosopher and other important thinker throughout history has observed of the human condition that we are born, we live and we die. It is as simple as that.

Two children's books I noted here a few weeks ago made that point and I unexpectedly run across it regularly enough that I have come to believe the universe is banging away at me with something I need to pay attention to, to practice:

We are born, we live, we die.

Just Saturday, having a lie-down in mid-afternoon, the universe reached out to me in that regard again.

I tuned in the movie Charlotte's Web - the good one from 2006 – which I had never seen and had not read in book form for at least half a century. And there at the end, Charlotte the spider says to Wilbur the pig:

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die.”

Believe that quotation now as from me to you.

You who read here regularly know that I have in my possession the end-of-life drugs Oregon allows terminally ill patients to use to leave this world on their own terms.

But let me be clear. I am not suicidal. Although each day becomes a little harder to live now, I continue to choose life because there are still good days and – as far as I can tell, even with all the philosophers', thinkers', Freddy the leaf's and spiders' reminders - to live is the imperative.

What I would ask of you is this: collaborate with me. Let us help each other. Take what you find valuable here and pass it on. There are not a lot of places in our lives where we can talk as openly as we do here about this end-of-life stuff, and so many other people are frightened to do so. Or even to hear.

So collect it, pass it on, add to it from what others say here, expand on it, explain, show us your strengths and your fears, be true and be real.

Don't preach. Don't tell people how to do it. Just show one another what it is like for you and let them decide. But don't let end-of-life be a secret. We can help each other find our way.