Musings on Life and Living it to the Fullest
Tuesday, December 06 2011 @ 08:00 AM PST
Contributed by: Richard Pitt
Concensus is that the first person to reach the age of 150 is already alive, and that the first person to reach the age of 1000 will be born some time in the next 30-50 years.
Scary thought - what do you do if you get 75 years of good health and 925 years of dementia?
Or if you get 800 years of good health and 200 years of living with a colostomy bag and leaking fluids in all directions, beholden to nurses and friends and loved ones for everything for longer than most of us would ever dream of living totally.
The quality of life makes the difference of whether life is worth living at all.
Morbid thoughts about the elephant in the room.
I started writing this because I'd just found out that I didn't have an ulcer. What I did have was not at that time determined (it has since been confimed as cancer) but I figured whatever it was was likely life threatening.
Since then, my youngest brother has gone into the hospice for the last time and may not last until his birthday in a few days. Lots to think about. Some of it is here - maybe not as organized as I'd hoped but maybe you can find something to take away that will help you in your daily life.
I write because I must - I hope what you read is worth it but just writing it is worth it to me. Thanks for being a reader...
We all will (so far) die. It's written in our genes and if nothing else, is simply due to the human animal needing to clear the space in our collective lives for the next generations to have room to grow and mature.
Defeating this long-term survival mechanism (yes, death is really a survival mechanism - but for the species, not the individual) may not the be the best thing we ever do. In fact, it may be the worst, and in the long run may lead to the complete disappearance of the human race as we know it; to be replaced by what I can't possibly guess, but replaced none the less.
So having realized that we personally will die at some point, we individually must come to terms with that concept somehow, some time. Either that or death simply catches us unaware due to accident or misadventure and we are spared the need to think beyond that event at all.
On the other hand, most of us will in fact die "of natural causes" in some place of our or our family's choosing, hopefully surrounded by loved ones and friends concerned and loving to the end because we've mattered to them over our lives, and they will miss us and morn us. I've certainly seen my share of friends and family follow this path. At some point I'll follow the path I'm sure - maybe sooner rather than later, who knows.
As an aside - here's a great article on how doctors deal with their own death. Strangely, the thoughts in here paralell my own. I'm not interested in "life at any cost" - I'm interested in comfort and dignity.
Over my life I've had 2 major life-altering events that could just as easily have lead to my death at the early ages of 2 or 8. Both times I was saved by new technologies and techniques, and my understanding is that both times my cases were written up in the medical journals of the time to document the good outcomes of what otherwise was almost a given case of death or at minimum harshly altered life circumstance for what would likely then have been a much shorter life expectancy.
Now it appears I may be facing my 3rd such event - at the age of 61 and otherwise pretty much in the prime of my life; an altogether astounding state considering that well within my lifetime the typical 60 year old would have been considered at death's doorstep for the most part. Retirement age of 65 was kind of a false goal for the typical person since the average age at death back when I was born in 1950 was only slightly over 65; the individual retires and dies in the same year. Today it is 77+, and locally here in BC in general and the Vancouver area in particular (due to the year-round exercise opportunities as much as anything) it is over 85, so retirement age of 65 allows for us to look forward to 10-20 or more years of enjoyment of the state of not working at our traditional job - but of course in order to enjoy that extended time we do have to work at our health somehow.
In my case, given my history and the fact that my father died in his early 50s, I have been pragmatic in my expectations for a long and happy life. I'll be honest, I've hoped but have not expected. Each birthday beyond my 50th I've thanked whatever or whoever keeps this world cranking that my lot has not come up. Each major event, from my son's marriage and my grand daughter's birth I've looked on in wonder that I've been around to witness, and at each opportunity I've taken some measure of advantage of the "live life now, you may not live long enough to enjoy it later" philosophy.
My last 15+ years have been under the shadow of diabetes. My diagnosis was my wakeup call and I woke up. I changed my lifestyle, lost weight, started to exercise regularly and hard, dealt with my diet by learning all I could about what was good/bad for diabetics in general and me in particular. This is at direct odds with many others I've observed with exactly the same diagnosis. They've chosen to follow their old path with minimal nod to the diabetes; relying upon the drugs they get to "cure" them and allow them to otherwise ignore their condition and simply keep on keeping on. Those others have helped shorten their lives and in many ways likely made them filled with more pain.
We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to not waste our opportunity to live as long and as well as we can - but we also owe it to ourselves to live as happily as we can for our short tenure here. I guess if abusing your body by continuing to eat the wrong things in fact brings short-term happiness then maybe that outweighs the pain. That's just not for me.
I'm resigned to death. Not going to give in easily, but not afraid of it either. I'm living my life as well as I can, balancing inner peace with outer necessities. That's all I can do and for many that's all they can ask of themselves.
If anything, I'll be disappointed that I can't hang around longer and watch the lives I've touched continue to grow and mature; my grand daughter's, sons' and their spouses and loved ones, Shirley and her family and of course those in my own family on the Pitt side.
Our lives are far better documented in many ways today than they were in the past. We are "the generation that can't forget" because we have ephermal recordings of video, audio, images and thoughts in our computerized and digitized world. Well, we can forget - but usually that involves catastrophic happenings to some primary digital record, but since may of us also use the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Flicker, and other online stores of personal information, the chances are that some copy, somewhere of these memories will remain. All we have to do is remember (or figure out) the account and password they were stored under and get to the last step that happens as we learn we are to lose or have already lost someone; that of organizing their historic look back for those of us still around to do so.
I've had to do this for a number of people, chief of whom lately was my mother. I expect I'll be starting to do the same for brother Doug shortly - and someone will need to do it for me, you, them and all.
I remember the good times
I'm continuing to live for the good times
I refuse to dwell on the inevitable future - but I also won't ignore it.
All we can hope for is that our lives made enough of a positive influence on those who follow us that we are not disdained or simply ignored.
On the other hand, maybe all we really are is a fancy, self-feeding, mobile home for the billions of bacteria we host.
That too has been our function in life - and maybe it is the prime function. Personally I don't think so, but...