Ever since I turned 60 back in January, I’ve found myself contemplating the last part of life. You know, death. Muerto. The End. I wonder about it all the time. I think about what it will be like to not exist anymore except in my loved ones’ memories. But don’t worry, it’s not depression…it’s curiosity.
After all, longevity does NOT run in my family. With a couple of notable exceptions–both of whom had dementia–people in my tribe just don’t live into their 80s and 90s. My father died at 59, my mother at 66. Both my grandmothers lived till their early 70s, and my sister is 73 and has multiple health problems. But then, so do I–there’s my diabetes (which is under control without medication), as well as high blood pressure, asthma, and heart disease, all of which are well-managed thanks to a variety of meds. And of course, I have to count my bipolar as a medical condition, which is alleged to reduce life expectancy by 10 or more years.
I’ve long been aware that my health isn’t what it should be. My diet is horrible, I don’t exercise, and I have no motivation to change either of those things. If it weren’t for all these drugs—psychiatric and others—I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been able to conveniently ignore that fact because I really did believe I could go on forever, but otherwise didn’t give it that much thought.
Now, however, I’m intrigued by the whole idea of dying. I think of it as life’s last great adventure. I’m in no hurry to experience it, but realistically it will probably come early—maybe even in this decade of my life if statistics are to be believed—and I want to know what actually happens. I want to know how I’m going to die. Will I be in pain, or will I be allowed to slip away in peace? I’ve seen a lot of people die and I want to know what their last thoughts were, what they felt at the moment they passed. And most importantly, is there really life after death, where I’ll meet the God I’ve believed in all my life and see my husband again? Or is it just…nothingness?
I know it sounds morbid, but it’s also utterly fascinating. What’s weird is that turning 60 was the trigger for all this introspection. I’m still considered middle-aged (except at movie theaters and other places that give discounts to “seniors” over 55 or 60), but the way time flies, I’ll turn around twice and be 65, the age when you’re officially elderly. Like, what the hell happened to this year?? I just got over the trauma of actually beginning my seventh decade of life, and here I am, about to be 61 already. Time really does go faster the older you get; I remember when I was a kid and it seemed like Christmas or my birthday took forever to get here. Now, the last four months of a year feels like four weeks, and the holidays seem to come twice a year instead of once.
They say that it’s all downhill from here, but I still refuse to look at life that way, even though I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mortality and how someday my kids are going to have to go through my stuff, a job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
It’s all good. Happy Thanksgiving!