Don’t go just yet. I need a little more wisdom to carry on

“I’m not long for this world,” said an elderly friend to me yesterday morning. “Doc tells me my heart is pretty much finished so I could go at any time. Can’t really complain. It has served me well for 89 years, so I can’t ask for more than that.”

 I hadn’t seen him in a few months and wondered if he were OK. Negligently (or humanly) I hadn’t bothered checking closely.

His statement nonplused me. Even more nonplused because he uttered it so matter-of-factly as if he were discussing the state of the weather.

I was also saddened. I like the man very much. He was in his day a very successful businessman. Indeed, one of the pillars of the community and virtually everybody knew his name and knew the company that bore his name. And even now, as an elderly man, he is sharp of intellect and a pleasure to be with. Always immaculately dressed, usually in shirt and tie in a rather casual – too casual, many think – community. And we’d see him walk by nearly every morning, and would often run into him in the park across the way.

“I’d like to be like him when I’m his age,” I’d say to Wendy. “He still has it all together; still walks like a young man; still seems to enjoy his life. Not so bad.”

So, what I’m wondering now is not so much that his life may be coming to an end. Personally, I hope his doctor is full of shit and that he’ll be around for years yet, but that’s possibly wishful thinking. That’s because I am a ‘geriatricophile’. I like me my old folks. I think it’s a legacy from my grandparents and my love of them. I think our elders can teach us much and I always find time with a senior to be worthwhile. My favorite character on the treacly Waltons was Grandpa. When old Will Geer died I didn’t bother watching any more. Didn’t much like the rest of them, especially that smug John-Boy jerk.

In recent years too many of my senior folk have died. They tend to do that. And now it seems my friend will be joining their numbers and move into the past-tense. 

What struck me in our conversation, however, was how philosophical he was about it all. As I said, he was very matter-of-fact. Is that something that happens? Do we reach a point in which pending death seems as natural to us as any other aspect of life; that aspect being, it must end?

I don’t know, but in fact I hope that is the case. It wouldn’t make it seem so ominous.

Maybe I need to have a few more elderly people conversations to find out if that is indeed the way it is.

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12 responses to “Don’t go just yet. I need a little more wisdom to carry on

  1. Grandpa Walton is my role model. “There’s only work and love.”

  2. I think there are very few people who are truly matter of fact about it. Most people, I’d imagine are terrified at the thought. Even those who act very matter of fact.

    I know I am – terrified I mean. The thought of being snuffed out. Poof, you’re gone… what’s not to be terrified about?

  3. I’ve experienced so many people dying that when I think about it now, the piece of advice I got from someone about living in the moment makes perfect sense. I am more concerned about how I live than how I will die.

  4. There might be something comforting about hearing, “…soon your heart will just stop.” I mean consider the alternatives. A slow and painful disease. A wasting Alzheimer’s brain condition. Or like my husband’s grandmother – 10 years in a nursing home just hanging on with little quality of life. My grandfather, in contrast, fell face forward into his cereal bowl one morning – gone in an instant. The pain was felt only by those he left behind. His journey was quick and painless. My fears around dying have little to do with heart failure at 89…they are comprised of all of the above nightmare scenarios instead. Bless him and his happy 89 years of life. I hope he has many enjoyable days (weeks, months, or years) left and that the end for him, like my grandfather, is quick and painless.

  5. Wenderina: Lots of wisdom there and truth to be sure. Thank you.
    Andrea: Amen to that.

  6. I loved Grandpa Walton too. He reminded me of my own grandparents. They too were simple country folk with a strong sense of community and an even stronger work ethic. My grandfather was still riding home on the hay wagon well into his 80s. When he had to go into hospital after a bout of pneumonia he felt he’d lost his dignity and one day, as we left the hospital and promised to come back for evening visiting he said ‘Ah lass, tha’ want need to’ and sure enough, that afternoon he fell asleep reading the paper and didn’t wake up. A perfect end almost. I had a wonderful ‘surrogate granny’, an old lady who lived opposite my parents. She had never married and saw my mother as the daughter she never had. She was very educated, spoke 5 languages fluently and had travelled the world. I could have talked to her all day – and often did! She died at the age of 104 having discovered the joys of the pub in her 90th year. We don’t value our oldies nearly enough in my opinion.

  7. I’ve been very matter of fact about death since Dad died in 1998. I’m not afraid of death, nor do I spend time dwelling on it. I think it shows the wisdom and intellect of your friend that he has accepted it. 89 is old. He was lucky. He had a good life. He knows that. People are born and people die. It is what it is.
    After delivering Meals on Wheels for almost 11 years I can tell you for a fact that there are existences that make death look like a vacation. Don’t be afraid of death. It will happen. And it may possibly be better than many alternatives.

  8. I regret all the secrets and knowledge that we lose when someone dies.

  9. I just lost a friend yesterday. He was yet young, but with unusual health issues that taught him young to be philosophical about life and death. He had the great good fortune to pursue a dream of an occupation (or two or three), marry a lovely lady, and have a son. It is not the years that teaches you such lessons, nor is it experiencing troubles along the way. I think you chose to accept life as it comes, making changes where you can and want to, because you realize there is little you can do otherwise. I will miss his singing, his laughter, and the tales of his adventures…

  10. To answer the question of impending death; yes it does come to be a very natural event of life for some. Having buried a father, an aunt and a son I have come to realize that most personal grieving is in fact a very selfish thing – it is ourselves we are feeling sorry for and a deep analysis will show it is the ego once more at work for it surely does not want it’s life threatened the same way. All of nature shows us daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, the cycles of birth and rebirth yet we do not pay close attention – we do not cry or grieve if a flower/tree/gopher ( very real living things) die because we accept the naturalness of this nor will it upset our life in any way….yet when it comes to human life we give it an unnatural quality and for our own selfish reasons want it to live in this world forever. I enjoy every single second I’m here to the utmost yet will welcome death with open arms whenever it comes.

  11. I fear losing my children more than my own demise because it would be out of the natural order of things, and would completely destroy me. I have always hoped to live to 100 as long as my mind remains intact; living with a 50-something spouse with Alzheimer’s has disabused me of the idea that longevity is particularly relevant or as important as quality of life. Mostly, I hope to be remembered well and missed by my loved ones.

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