I’m in the shady if not elderly bracket of life. You know. That time of life when people start treating you differently. Sometimes they don’t know whether to do obeisance because you’ve lived so long, or whether to treat you as a normal human being and let you get on with your mortal life.
Psalm 90:10 (King James Version) says it so well:
The days of our years are three-score years and ten;
And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
Yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
I’m in the shady area—somewhere between three-score years and ten (70), and fourscore years (80). Definitely moving toward the upper end of mortal life.
So just now I’m dealing with medical personnel. They have my best medical interests at heart, with some attention to my ‘quality of life’ as we call it. I suppose if I were in my 90s, they might also be attending to the quality of my death.
I know that can happen. It happened for my mother who was in a hospice facility when she died at age 78. It also happened years later for my father in the same hospice facility when he died at age 96.
Here’s the rub. The hospice facility is not obligated to our Western medical attempts to keep us alive. Hospice personnel assume mortality as the starting point for their services and facilities. They help people of any age and their loved ones accept imminent death, while doing what they can to make each person’s death as comfortable and dignified as possible.
So here I am, being asked to make decisions that will possibly avoid sudden death and give me an opportunity to ‘do whatever I’ve always done.’ I’ll be able to ‘get back to my life’ and not worry about sudden death or disability.
I appreciate the commitment to making my life as full and free as possible. For me, however, that includes numbering my days. Not that I know when I’ll die. I don’t.
Nonetheless, I’m to live each day as if it could be today. Not in a dour, long-faced, suffering-for-the-Lord sort of way, but with freedom. Without denial that each day I live brings me closer to my death.
The kicker, of course, is that I don’t know when or how that will happen. Hence the urgency to ‘number my days.’ I can’t afford to live in denial of death as the ever-imminent possibility. I am, after all, Mortal Woman.
Will I ever be ready to die? Not if you’re asking about my emotions, or how many tasks I’ll complete before I die, or even whether I’ll make amends with every person I’ve knowingly treated wrongly.
Yet the longer I live, the more I feel ready to die. Why? Because I’m more at peace than ever before with who I am and with the people God has brought into my life. Which is the other side of being more at peace with God than ever before.
I used to think that being ready to die meant getting all my belongings in order. Doing a post-death cleanup before I die, instead of leaving it for others to wade through.
This will never happen. I have 24 hours in a day. Getting ready to die is the work of a lifetime—not defined solely by throwing things out or giving them away. That’s part of the picture, but only part of it.
The largest part is about living as fully as I can in my writing, my friendships, my family relationships and this beautiful, pain-ridden world in which we all live and will die sooner or later.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 February 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser, evening sky from our house, November 2013