This blog is in response to a call out for Oasiens to submit an article for our community blog post. It’s not often that I draw a blank when seeking topics to write about. However, with this week’s blog that appears to be the case.
Out of pure desperation, I turned to something that has become obvious to me: I’m usually the oldest one in any room. Therefore, according to author Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, Natural Causes, I am old enough to die. I’m writing this to express my disagreement with that statement.
Of course, dying has no age restriction. I had a sister who died at two-weeks. I don’t remember her but I was always assured that she did, usually accompanied by “What a shame she didn’t live to have a full life.” I agree. it would have been nice to have known her.
But that’s not the dying age I’m referring to. We’ve all said from time to time when learning of someone young or middle-aged who died of a sudden heart attack, a terrible accident, or an unwelcome cancer, “What a shame. They had so much living to do.”
But when we “older folk” die there’s nothing to say but, “What a nice, long-life they had.” In other words, that person was old enough to die.
Really? By who’s determination? This year alone I’ve had two different health crises which could have resulted in my death. In one of those situations, my general practitioner, who sent me to the hospital as an emergency entry later said, “I was afraid I’d never see you again.” In both of these instances I was aware of my predicament without being told. However, the thought of dying never crossed my mind. I just considered my current state as one more thing that I had to get through. And my intention was to get through it.
I currently have two friends who are considered close to their own death (yes, this happens when you’re “older”). But I object that they’re “old enough to die,” because I can vividly recall the vitality and joie de vivre for living that they brought to our friendship. Even when their bodies finally give out, what they brought to my life will live long in my mind.
My argument here is that no one is “old enough to die.” We all, including me, have so much more living to do, even though I’ve reached the ripe old age of seventy-nine.
My favorite movie scene from all that I’ve seen is the last one from a film by Akira Kurosawa, “Dreams,” in which a young man comes upon a village where the oldest resident has died. To end the scene, the entire village celebrates joyfully with banners, music and dancing as they carry her casket to the grave site. To my way of thinking, that’s truly living life to the very end.
Another way to express this is to quote the poet Dylan Thomas:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
old age should burn and rave at the close of day;
rage, rage against the dying of the light.”