While I’ve adjusted to my chronic health condition, an auto-immune disease so rare that only 400 people in the US have been diagnosed with it in the past 20 years, I still struggle with facing death. Eventually it will come, whether with warning or not; and I hope it’s far in the future, after I finish the 20 or so novels I have planned.
But I have a number of friends who are living with much more serious diagnoses. As I’ve watched them move first from verdict to acceptance, I think they become more aware of the “one day at a time” philosophy and value the flow of life and the good things they have. One man, whose relationship with us extends over many years but has been extremely casual, now takes the time to add a word of thanks for a meeting. Several others now meditate regularly and mention the peace and joy they gain.
Perhaps once you’ve faced death, you don’t fear it. I think about other extreme situations that can occur in life—divorce, getting fired, going broke. I know (from some experience as well as observation) before these incidents happen, you can feel terrified, paralyzed. After you get through them, you no longer panic.
So I’m trying to view the cycle of life and death as a propitious* AFGO. That’s the term coined by a former boss for every new challenge—Another Freakin’ Growth Opportunity. Live and learn, right?
* Propitious: favorable, auspicious.
“Getting old is hell.” Advice from my grandfather years ago. As time builds up on me, I’m starting to realize the truth of his statement. Backs get creakier, joints wear out, muscles weaken, teeth break.
Do minds age, too? Shed memories and facts and knowledge like a tree lose leaves in the fall? I like to deny it, but I fear it may be so. Everyone I know over a certain age labels absentmindedness a “senior moment.” If she walks to a room to find a sweater and upon arrival has forgotten what she’s looking for, she blames aging.
One of the worst results of aging is that we lose the stories of our elders. I saw an old friend yesterday. As we chatted, he seemed disoriented; and I worried about his state of mind. I knew I’d miss the anecdotes of his recent travels, his sharp insights into politics.
I think about my grandfather and his tales about WW I. He was gassed in the trenches, survived the Depression. My mother, whose group of girlfriends daringly took nude photos of one another as teens. My father’s chronicles of a rough childhood in blue-collar Boston. (For more on this topic, see my “The Significance of Stories, http://sasee.com/2008/11/01/the-significance-of-stories/)
How do we capture and remember these extraordinary incidents in our senescence*? Usually we don’t. Sometimes writers will through their stories. Do you have family stories you recall or ones of your own you’d like to pass down?
* Senescence: the state or process of being old.