Reflections on Aging and Death
I’ve been sick over Christmas. Virtually all my life (I’m now 63) I’ve been full of energy and enthusiasm and rarely get sick. I’m one of the healthiest people around and exercise daily for an hour.
Getting sick this Christmas was a lesson in getting real about mortality. I’m usually so fit, healthy, and strong that I feel I’ll live to be a hundred and still be doing handstands in my 90s. After getting sick this Christmas though, I suddenly feel vulnerable. I sense death whispering in my ear and I feel intimations of mortality, like a shark sensing blood in the water.
Getting old is vexing. Every year I’m a little less the vigorous person I used to be. Perhaps this is offset by increased wisdom, but I can’t be sure of that.
Old men can get grumpy, hard of hearing, unfocused, selfish, foggy, and self-absorbed. Deterioration in brain function can exacerbate all these negatives. Both our curiosity and compassion can take a nose-dive.
The person I was when I was at my noblest and most capable (perhaps I’m at that age right now) will slowly decline, like a statue chipped away by age and weather. That funny, caring, thoughtful, patient, and perceptive person in his 60’s will begin to fade.
My essential self will die a long time before my actual death.
Will my loved ones remember me as I was at my prime? Or will they make the same mistake I have repeatedly made over my lifetime with old people, and look at me as an elderly curmudgeon and forget the person I was before I became deaf, diseased, and decrepit?