[EDITORIAL REQUEST: I have a project in mind for Time Goes By that will, at its conclusion, benefit all readers, but now involves only the oldest readers. If you are 76 or older, would you raise your hand by sending me an email. Just click "Contact" in the upper left sidebar. I'll then get back to you in a day or so with details.]
On Monday, I published a piece I titled Mysterious New Feelings but it was a poor header. The feelings aren’t new to me or even mysterious. They are just being presented recently in a different manner than when I was younger.
It would better have been titled Mortality which, of course, is the central dilemma of life. Although it plagues us from the time we are old enough to understand that dying means our existence ends, it comes more sharply into focus when we enter elderhood.
As when I’ve written of mortality in the past, one theme in the comments this time was acceptance. Many of us elders don’t much fear death, but are terrified of dying - particularly a lingering, painful dying.
Another theme is sadness, particularly for those we leave behind, of not seeing grandchildren grow up or not wanting our loved ones to be sad. But we can’t affect other people’s feelings and we know from the losses we have experienced that they will be sad and I think that’s all right. Sadness, along with the every kind of hard knock in life, is essential to each of our beings.
And they will move on, as they should, as they must, just as we have, remembering us in their own way.
It was gratifying to know that others too have fleeting moments of disbelief, difficulty believing that something as solid as we are now in the world can – will – disappear. But my stronger feeling, as I mentioned Monday, is the rightness of death – a flower is born, blossoms, matures and then fades away making room for the next generation. All around us in nature, it is thus and no one has presented me with a good reason to believe it is otherwise for humans.
Sometimes I have envied those whose religious belief allows them to anticipate heaven, hell, 24 virgins and all the other variations of afterlife, because it guarantees continuation of one’s self as we know ourselves with all our memories, experiences and ego intact. That has never worked for me, but neither does too much contemplation of oblivion.
Now and then, however, there is a stark reminder, as when an old friend dies which happened to me recently. When the gathering of the clan, the funeral and formal ceremonies of mourning are done, I can’t help wondering when it will be my turn to go and then thoughts of oblivion intrude for awhile.
I’m a practical sort who doesn’t spend too much time on what I can’t change. One of my defenses against occasional dark nights of the soul is asking myself, “How hard can it be to die? After all, every person, genius or dolt, who ever walked the earth has done it.”
I don’t mean to take our mortality lightly; we all struggle with it - but the question both amuses and comforts me. And I can then get back to living.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon McKinney takes on the question of minor Embarrassing Moments we are all familiar with.]