Winding Down a Life (or Not) in a Troubled Time

TGB Readers and My Youthful Dream

The topics of blog posts here have always followed from my own current interests about ageing. Sometimes a checklist on how to avoid falling, for example, a complaint about misguided politicians threatening Medicare and Social Security or, starting three years ago, what it's like to live with a terminal disease.

Now, I've read your many wonderful responses to Wednesday's post about living with the new-ish knowledge that the end of my earthly journey approaches.

Your kindness about this journal overwhelms me. Modesty leads me to dismiss you who comment here as giving me way too much credit. But. But. There is something else now: you, your attention and your responses have fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Let me explain.

While reading your comments on Wednesday's post (along with others in the near past), I recalled a time back in my teen years when I was hanging out alone in my bedroom one day. Probably I was 15 or 16 years old, getting toward the end of high school, and I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.

Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief? Actually, in the mid-1950s, there was not much for a girl to aspire to be except nurse, teacher, office worker and, of course, mother. None excited me. The only thing I actually wanted was to do something that made a positive difference in the world.

But what? I had no idea how I could do that. I continued thinking about it, looking for inspiration that never materialized. And when the thought occasionally popped up during adulthood, I still didn't know. Charitable giving isn't what I ever had in mind about this goal.

After graduation, there was a single imperative, to support myself. One thing led to another and after a few years of going-nowhere office jobs, I ended up with a long and varied media career – radio, television, internet. It was always an interesting way to pay the bills but I never confused it with making a difference in the world.

When paid employment came to an end in 2004, I had already begun this blog to record what I was learning from my spare-time, personal research into old age.

Back then, nearly everything written about it was negative. Getting old was mostly made out to be a fate worse than death and one was urged to do everything possible to avoid it or spend a fortune trying to look younger than we were.

For a long time, I was pretty much alone in the blogosphere – or anywhere else - trying to explain how foolish and life-defeating it is to spend up to a third of one's life disliking, even hating the number of one's years.

(That's no longer so. There are encouraging signs of individuals and people who are now called influencers taking a more positive view of age. Which is not to say that there isn't still too much television and internet advertising about how to look young forever. But it is changing. Slowly.)

Reading your comments Wednesday and again on Thursday, I had a revelation. I realized that I need to drop the phony modesty I have harbored through these 16 years and accept that the many people saying similar things about what they take away from this blog must be true.

Listen to just a few of them:

“You’ve inspired me to live fully, absorb losses, treasure surprises, and fume with passion.” (Paula)

“You inspire us to carry on with dignity no matter what misfortune may befall us.” (Ruth Marchese)

“[Y]ou helped me find an approach to aging.” (Mary Jamison)

“YOU are definitely having an impact and a very positive one!” (Rebecca Ann Magalhaes)

“This has helped me in giving workshops and also in living my own truth...” (wisewebwoman)

“Each of us carries something we learned from you, and we will keep sharing that with others.” (Wendl Kornfeld)

“A small plea. I hope your words of wisdom, as also peoples' comments, remain available for solace.” (Mary S)

Yesterday, I decided to believe you all (why would you bother to write such things if you did not believe them?) and in that moment, realized that here in old age, I have finally fulfilled my teenage dream.

I am awed and pleased that you find inspiration in my writings. I don't plan it that way, you know. Before cancer and COPD, I was exploring old age and passing on what I learned.

These past three years (Three years? It has gone by in a flash.), I have written about facing a terminal illness to find out what I think and how I feel in this predicament. In the process I find now that it has been important to you.

(Oh my god, is this my Sally Field moment? Oh well.)

I am thrilled. And weepy. Without you, I would never have understood that you, all of you, made my youthful dream come true. What an extraordinary gift. I am humbled and thank you with all my heart.

* * *

Now a couple of related housekeeping items.

In answer to Mary S's “plea” above. A few months after I was diagnosed, I asked the people at Typepad, the internet company that hosts this blog, what it would cost to purchase five years of hosting so it will be here for at least that long after I die.

They responded immediately, making my account free. They have always been an excellent host, hardly any down time in more than 16 years and excellent customer support via email – usually within an hour or two.

Also. On Wednesday several commenters sounded a bit like they expected TGB to end soon, something I interpreted to be within weeks or a couple of months.

Of course, I have no idea how long I will be here and I do not know how the course of the disease will affect me either physically or emotionally. But for the foreseeable future, I will publish here as usual.

That might seem odd to some – to keep scribbling away while facing the great unknown. But for 16 years, TimeGoesBy has given form and focus to my days. That is still true. So I will keep writing it for as long I can. It's what I do.


Yes, we like you! You've definitely been one of my guides for aging - More so, many of your commentors helped me through my dad's illness. We "met" years ago through our mutual respect of Globe columnist, Donald Murray. Keep on writing. Love and hugs.

So glad you took in the effect you’ve had on us by writing this blog, especially in these last years.

I learned what I came here to learn which is “what is it like to live with a late stage cancer diagnosis?” I am a psychologist and have patients with same diagnosis, and although I’m a cancer survivor, mine was not life threatening it seems. Anyway....I love hearing you talk about your thoughts and feelings and bringing us in on your experience

You’ve also insprired me to consider Blogging. I’m nearly at the end of a 40 year career as a Psychologist yet I have more to share. Maybe I will share this way!
Thinking of you and with you in spirit

Thanking you again, Ronni. Yes, you have made a difference just by gathering information about aging, and sharing it with us, and by giving your personal experience as you decided to stay truthful and curious. When I lay in bed the other night, feeling like I was dying (a bit of anxiety as well as possible physical problems) I thought of staying aware of everything, seeing what it would be like. And then I woke up after a bit of rest. However long I have, I am glad that I can approach life and death with awareness and hope to reduce that anxiety the next time.

Yes, keep writing. It's good for what ails you. It is especially good for your audience and all that ails each of us, too. Hearing another voice out there makes all the difference.

We really like (love) you Ronni dear as you continue to inspire and share your wisdom, your strength and your hope.

As we say out here in Newfoundland - long may your big jib draw.


How wonderful that you've found your lifes' work to culminate in your teenage dream :-)

I wish you a good day .

I think everyone should be able to aspire to be whatever they want to be. But I'm afraid I also think that nurses, teachers and mothers all make more positive differences in the world than anyone in the media ever did.

I so hope you are able to "scribble" here until your dying day or close. It’s invaluable what you have achieved and given us all.
I have actually copied and pasted in a special folder I have, some of my favorite posts, so those I’ll have until I die and can refer back to much longer than 5 years. It’s time consuming but worth it.. For personal use only of course.

I've just finished reading Wednesday's post. And lady, you sure bummed me out. I so wanted your story to have a fairy-tale ending. The one where the doctors were wrong and all you had was a bad cold. But fairy-tales are for kids, and we are far from that. This virus thing has made me think about my own mortality more than once as of late. And I have come to the conclusion that I'm not ready to die yet. I came close a few years ago and I didn't care much for the idea then either. Stay strong Ronnie.

I'm so glad you heard us!

Dear Ronni,
Your blog has greeted me since you were in the Village. You have shared an amazing amount of wisdom and research about the politics of aging and your own life changes and challenges. Saturdays are always fun and Sundays' music from Peter Tibbles Down Under has been a gift, as well. I am truly grateful for your generous work on our behalf. I will continue here indefinitely with gratitude for each post.
Love and blessings,

Your thoughts and advice have helped me in developing and sustaining an "Aging in Place" group in my community, so your influence is spreading beyond the group that regularly looks forward to reading your blog.

Keep it up as long as you can then let it go without regret. You have more than fulfilled your teenage aspiration already.

Your (latest) inspiring post reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote:

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."

For years now I have read your post first thing over coffee every morning you have published it. Your honesty and straight talk are invaluable to me.

You are 10 years older than I am and have helped pave the way for me, not only for my own aging trail, but also in regards to my parents' (now passed) lives and that of my 75 year old ailing husband.

Thank you, Ronni.

Keep on keeping on...for you and for us! We'll be there, and have been, every step and moment of the way!!

As one of my friends noted on FaceBook, “the world will be poorer without Ronni”, so it’s good to know that as long as you’re here, and beyond, your blog will be here.
You bring a lot to us old people and younger ones have quite a bit to learn from you.
Please don’t go too soon, I’d love to read your comments on the next election.

Yes, we do love you, Ronni.

And , yes, your youthful dream has cine true,

You and your words have made a profound difference .

Hoping for many more days for you—and many more words fo us

I didn't comment yesterday, because I tend to get a little self-conscious when I read all the inspiring comments by others. But I'm here, having been following you for years, and I continue to look forward to each post with real anticipation. I loved your two posts about your psilocybin experience and have gone back to read them again and share them with friends. We are "of an age" and I know that I am in my twilight years, even without a major illness. You have helped me figure out how to spend these years productively, which means keeping my friends and family close, and continuing to blog about my own efforts to find meaning in life.

Glad you will continue to write. You are still here amongst the living. Living your life will not prevent your dying. So keep writing, and enjoy everyday you have left on this planet. That goes for every one of us, tomorrow is never promised.

Ronni - Love your continued interest in the people who enjoy your postings. Please accept the following as my effort to both say I understand the winter season of life and thank you for your honesty.

The chronologically challenged of our day are the most *discriminate of people I know. This is a product of living in the USA which worships youth and all the potential that entails. When I was a teenager in the 60's we would say never trust anyone over 25. I'm fast coming up on 50 years past the age of 25 and have absolute proof of the wisdom of that prejudice. "Whatever happens" and then we find ourselves more sensitive to the noticing our own poignant transgressions that we once overlooked. You would think all people would become more vigilant to do what is necessary to prevent others from the bitterness of discrimination and from other negative feelings that arise within us. We the aged must not let our growing awareness of our own sinfulness discourage us. Instead we must fight our own human nature more effectively with such heart warming knowledge. We must learn to love the one you are with, and all other people in close proximity. 
We can begin an upward spiral for all of us by realizing that people are most important to our Republic being successful, and that corporations are not people. Corporations are by construct only interested in money, the root of all evil.
Now onto to the confession part of this missive as to my being an aged. I'm presently building my last ride. That ride is in the shape of a toe-pincher coffin, which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides. The coffin will not have any metal parts in keeping with some Jewish tradition and is being constructed with cedar wood from Michigan.  The wood was donated by one of my high school classmates, who said he could think of no better use for his rough cut lumber. The news of this last ride has been received with a rather underwhelming response from family and friends, most often a statement is prefaced with "I can't imagine doing that myself." Or the all time favorite of some aged "I have better things to do," which is not ever to be confused with reading their bible...etc.
The gates of eternity are fast coming into view and with a joyful heart this old veteran is preparing to cross over, into....heaven or hell you may ask? 
*Discriminate to make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.  

I, too, hope that you will see the results of your next presidential election. Or, at least, the wire wall around the White House torn down!
You've made a difference in many lives.

I didn't comment on yesterday's extraordinary post because I felt that everyone else said whatever I could say -- and better. But I was so touched by your follow-up comments today, finally acknowledging the remarkable impact of your passion and devotion of the past 16 years. Frankly, I think it is a uniquely female 'thing" to minimize our own accomplishments. I'm so glad you are giving yourself this "Sally Field moment" (your sense of humor is still intact, I see) -- however belated it may be. Thank you for all your priceless contributions.

Aptly named "Time Goes By" yes, doesn't it, and learning from you and from the others responding to you is beautiful, have a good weekend, and thanks for keeping us with you on the journey,
We do the things we love, and shouldn't ever stop... it's in a higher powers hands, you have a beautiful soul that is working its way through this day.

What impresses me most today is the courage of your decision. And the timeliness of it is a bit mind-boggling.
Yes, I've been following for a long time, too. Partly because of you, I now host a Salon on aging...or did before sequestration. And blog about it, too.

But it is your courage of today, in making the decision to believe, that will stay with me. I've got that decision to make, too. I've spent my life, most of the last 50 years, with self-worth neuroses and tons of various therapies and I am now on the cusp of deciding that I may be worth the space I take up on this planet. It is turning out to be the most difficult choice I've faced.

So, Yes! As far as I am concerned you have most definitely made a difference.
I will never forget you while I am alive. <3

Thank you for keeping on keeping on.

Still out here...still reading you...still important part of my week. Thanks so much for writing this blog. You have touched folks beyond the first round of readers as most of us talk about your posts to many, many people. Hang in there! Terry from Texas

Many years ago when I was in a difficult period of my life, and I felt paralyzed not knowing what to do...stopped in my tracks...I was given the piece of advice to just "do the next directed thing." I asked, how do I know what the next directed thing is? I was told to look around...make your bed...wash the dishes. In other words, continue on with the daily tasks of life. Throughout my time of following your blog, you have always done the next directed thing. When the twists and turns of your life have occurred, you have acknowledged your emotions but you have never allowed them to rob you of your life. It would be easy to just sit down on your life's path. And more importantly for those of us who surround you, you have shared your decisions with us. Thank you for this gift...and it is a gift. When I am faced with the temptation to stop...I can reach for the gift and remember.

I am a daily reader of your blog who rarely comments. I want to verify your blog comments today by letting you know you have brought insight, information, resources and much more into my life. But, also, friendship. Having read your blog for several years makes me consider you a friend—a very helpful and caring friend. I wish you were not facing the terminal health issues now that are with you. I think many comments from your followers have made you realize how important you have been to so many. In other words, your time and research and devotion to this blog has been a gift to us all. Thank you.

My love and gratitude.

My sisters and I never miss you column and your insights and ability to express them so adeptly are appreciated beyond words. Your “scribbilings” have strengthened us, inspired us, and made us laugh. We are so much on the same wavelength that we feel like you are a member of our family! Yes, you have accomplished your teenage aspiration: you have made a huge difference! Thank you, Ronnie!

I have learned so much about myself reading your posts. I have laughed with you about some of the consequences of aging. Seanging hugs to say thank you for sharing

Bravo, Ronni !
I, along with all the other commentators here, view this generous sharing of your journey as a model of a life well lived.
What more can anyone ask for ?
We are all indebted to you . . . Wishing you peaceful days.

This post just filled my cup with joy.............because you HAVE made a difference, and boy am I glad that you are seeing, feeling, being with that!! Woooohoooo, YES! And again, the honesty, no aw shucksin' going on here. So refreshing, energizing. Name it and claim it!

Another welcome post. Thank you. So glad to know that your writings will be available for another five years--good for you for checking into it, and good that it was offered without cost! Each day brings its own challenges...but rewards, as well, even if sometimes we have to look to find them.

Carry on!

You have made SUCH a difference to so MANY people - I am so happy that you are at last seeing that! ( We do love you, we really do love you! )
You have made a lasting difference, a lasting impression. You have changed my world. Thank you!

Ronni -- I first came across your post when I turned 65 and wondered what it would be like to be that age and beyond. You and my fellow readers have given me far more than I ever expected. Please take that in, as it sounds like you're doing now.

I thank you for helping me not only be present to your dying process but also to have the strength to endure the heartbreak and growing pains of the America I love while I listen to what I might be able to heal us.

Thank you for your guidance and transparency in all the above.

Hi Ronni,
That’s great news from TypePad. I stopped my videoblog years ago, and was paying a yearly fee with them to keep it up. Then I found out that you can suspend your account, where you can’t update it anymore, and not have to pay the yearly fee. So that’s what I did.

One thing I’ll always remember was seeing you on stage at a conference, showing how you could put on special goggles to see what it would look like to get old. Sometimes I leave my reading glasses on and walk around the house, and am reminded of your speech EVERY TIME!

I’m now an elder blogger, and find that continuing to learn new things and share what I’ve learned keeps me young.

Thanks you all you do and your friendship with my mom!

Love you!

When your blog was recommended to me by a friend I thought, yeah, I'll check it out, I'm aging and could use some support. That was several years ago and it's the only blog I follow. You've created a delightful and addictive cocktail of intelligent humor, cultural tidbits, musical gifts and honest observations that I try to never miss, especially in these isolating times.
Reading Time Goes By seems to be what I do. I start my day with you. Thank you and it is a comfort to know that I can revisit any time and maybe read posts that preceded my joining. Like picking up a favorite book of poetry for inspiration, I'll visit your blog. I would say that you definitely fulfilled your youthful dream. You are amazing!

I WE love you, Ronni Bennett.

For myself , you have definitely made a difference in my life & it seems that is true for many others as well. It's wonderful that you have realized your teenage dream!Your life has been very similar to mine, still is, & I have learned so much from you about how to approach various aspects that are inevitable. Your perspective, humor, honesty & the way your mind works have all been an inspiration to me. I am so glad that you have decided to keep writing this blog for as long as you are able. May you be inspired for a long time. Gratefully, Ann

Thank you for all that you have written up til now and all for all that will come from now on.

Peace be with you.

Thank you for ensuring your blog will continue on.

No one knows when the curtains will fall. My estranged friend was the youngest, and healthiest, of our group and thought she'd outlive us all. Her parents have outlived her.

Blogs such as yours are shine a light far into the world. Words written from the heart come across with great clarity. I know that after my bereavement I searched the internet for information, insight, understanding .... and stumbled into the blog-world. There are many blogs but some really strike a chord. It is to these blogs that I return time and again, as I would to a trusted friend, for solace. And the comments sometimes offer pearls of wisdom from people of all ages and across the world - I like reading them.

My personal thanks for saying "dying", rather than "passing" or "losing". Dying is a fact of life, as is birth. I don't want to live forever, and happy to go while still living independently. My mother used to say old age isn't for sissies. I knew that before and now, in my own sunset years, can attest to it.

Peace be with you. Be assured your words will continue to shine a light into the world.

HI Ronni:

Remember- Washington Square Park.

Please check my comment two posts back.

A million fans can't be wrong.

Your Montreal Fan,

Since 2004.

I wish I could remember how I found your blog? I had been searching a few years ago for retirement blogs, aging, older women, etc. etc. and someone had a link to yours. In fact, I think you may have shown up at more than one site.

Your blog is very well-written with solid research. It's the only retirement/aging/older woman blog I follow. I love it. I am so grateful for it and you.

How lucky we are that the sharp mind of Ronni Bennett is like Joan Didion’s (“I don't know what I think until I write it down.”) and Flannery O’Connor’s (“I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”) So many times I don’t begin to know what I think until I read Time Goes By. Muchas gracias, merci, Xièxiè, shukraan jazilaan, danke schön, arigato, takk skal du ha, hvala vam, grazie, dhanyavaad, adank, maraming salamat po.

Yes, you do deserve every bit of joy our words bring to you. You did the heavy lifting for the rest of us, with your research and your analyses and your sharp mind. Sharing your blog has been your gift to us; I'm so glad you can accept our thanks with a smile on your face :-)

A dear friend pointed out that Ronni has referred to this quote by E.M. Forster: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

How lovely would it be for the talented followers of this blog to form a group to keep things going, a succession plan if you will, for Time Goes By. No one could replace you, Ronni and this blog consolidates, curates, and comments on information for and about the aging community in a way no other resource does. The reason it works is that it is personal. You have always owned your opinions and experiences rather than simply cutting a story gleaned from Reuters or AP. There must be people in this group willing to continue writing on this blog to keep this valued and valuable resource going.

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