Once again, as the youngest resident of my senior independent complex, I note how often this community takes time out to just have fun. St. Patrick’s Day approaches and we have lots of Irish in residence.
Although the party starts early, the Irish Coffee was abundantly available. The Irish priest came with his baritone and his guitar, to sing the folk tunes, accompanied by “his lads” on the violin and flute. The town’s young Colleens, selected each year for their Irish heritage, their essays, and their volunteer work, came to visit, dance, and socialize.
Yes, the living goes on.
And I wore green.
Last month, my younger brother died at 67. Giving that I muse about life in this space, I should admit that during the past two months, I have been musing about death to my friends. Yes, I felt the sadness about our family’s loss. And I also felt relief. A blessing that it was his time.
However, I was most surprised at my preoccupation with my own inevitable death, how I want it to be for me, and what I need to do to be prepared.
Fortunately, I have had a good model to guide me…my mother. She had a plan, and she executed that plan. She had no intention of entering a nursing home and told everyone who would listen. She had no intention of burdening her children with all the emotional chaos unloading a 3-story house that she experienced with her siblings when her parents passed. She did intend to be ready at her time. And so she was. The money handled, the furniture designated, sold or given away, the studio apartment in which she lived with few possessions easily dealt with. Health care directives signed, and body donated for research. At 90, she died as she wished, 24-hours after a heart attack, active until the end, and in her sneakers.
So, what do I want? And how will I get ready? Resources are beginning to multiply to respond to these queries. I visited the conversation project on line on I found stories of others getting themselves prepared which gave me information and hope. And a good friend has lots of advice on her website www.sustainable-aging.com.
The prompt to get moving was powerful. Such that yesterday, I drafted my obituary and sent it to my siblings.
Maybe this post will serve as a prompt for those of you of a certain age, contemplating your “inevitable” and wanting a dignified end of life. Just so you know, there is plenty of good guidance, just a google away.
I found myself as someone, at a place in time this month, in the midst of endings and beginnings, all converging over a two week period. Here’s what I’m noting as significant markers of the passage of time. Here’s what I’ve been shedding tears about.
Five years after writing my book, Why Not Do WHat You Love? I’m ready to order a few more cartons. But times have changed! New dilemmas for the 60 plus crowd are being illuminated. While the content remains relevant for seekers of all ages, it is the needs of aging boomers that have newly clarified themselves. I feel compelled to add a few more resources to help that oncoming age wave, beginning to approach 70, navigate their new longevity in a meaningful way. I definitely want my opus to stand the test of time and continue to refresh perspectives of any reader, for another five years and beyond.
Fifteen years after a period of intense change which started in 1999, I am home once more. First, a major downsize and move from two apartments in Washington DC to my ancestral home in Western Massachusetts. Continuing with mobility challenges and other major losses on many fronts. Finally, dealing with the orchestration of a further downsize, the sale of my home beneath the mountain, and a move to a senior independent living complex in the neighboring town. And that’s just the Cliff Notes Version. Whew! I can finally take a breath. With some renewal in health and energy, I am comfortably settled in my new community, starting to plant the seeds for whatever’s next.
We celebrated and remembered fifty years ago this month when we entered Colombia as Peace Corps Volunteers. Seventeen intrepid souls and 4 spouses, gathered in Savannah last weekend to share memories of our youth, and affirm that we are, in fact, still here, as feisty as ever. And, some optimist ventured that we might want to do it again in the not too distant future.
Fifty years ago this week, the Beatles came to America to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. Paul and Ringo, the two remaining members, are my age peers. Their Beatle phenomenon was being celebrated in a TV special. The tears started flowing. How much the world has changed since then. Yet, I am still here, concurrently experiencing my advancing age while I watch the active and fit youth of the world doing what they most love, Ice Dancing at the Sochi Olympics.
I entered my 75th year this month. Still truckin’, albeit at a slower pace. My brother Bruce died peacefully a week ago, at his time. My life goes on. His has ended. His terminal stroke occurred at Christmas. The doctors and the family agreed to remove life support a month later. Five siblings remain. And I am moved to give some attention to the end-of-life choices and decisions that will make things easier for me and for those around me in my own final days.
Time passes. Tears flow. I am someone.
Looking back and looking forward,
newly exploring arriving “home” once more.