Monday, September 29, 2008

Except the 99 year old man

For every middle-age man I’ve talked to who has told me they wouldn’t want to live forever is one who would. Those who say they wouldn’t are generally ones who witnessed an aging parent or relative suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. They may have served as a caretaker and seen the agony and pain of their loved one clinging to life at the very end. My wife and I experienced this several years ago when we brought an older person into our home who had cancer and no immediate family to care for him. We served as comfort caregivers in the days leading up to his surgery, witnessing his horrific agony and pain as cancer attacked his body. Despite his pain, this man had great hopes that the surgery would be successful so his life could go on; in other words, he preferred life rather than death. God had a different plan for him, however, when died about two months later.

Some elderly clients have told me they wouldn’t want to live forever if it got to the point where they couldn’t live independently because they wouldn’t want to be a burden of their adult children. Interestingly is that, in most cases, they refer to the same adult children who will inherit whatever financial fortune amassed during their lifetime. The key phrase here is “if they got to the point where they couldn’t live independently”; otherwise they would prefer life rather than death. It is normal human behavior to have this preference, even among the most devoutly religious who believe a wonderful eternal life awaits them in heaven.

With this preference of life rather than death are thoughts that old is what other people are, and that you are only old if there isn’t someone out there who is older than you. An elderly client of mine who is 89 years young said it best when he once told me “ain’t no man wants to live to be 100 except the 99 year old man.”

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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