Everyone talks about the benefits of a long life. You get to see your children and your grandchildren grow and flourish. But, is there such a thing as too long of a life? I do believe there is. Imagine seeing those around you disappear… You would be the only one of your siblings still alive… Your circle of friends has dissolved… Funerals are your opportunity to socialize because it seems that you attend them on a regular basis.. Get the idea?
There has to be a sweet spot… the length of life that allows you to fulfill all that you’ve wanted, but not so long as it would feel like death forgot you. Living life depends on what one qualifies a fulfilling life to be. Would being unable to complete daily activities be considered living? Would you be happy with moving into a facility because it would be unsafe for you to live at home? What about losing loved ones – spouses, children, siblings and friends? Would you want to be the last one standing?
A patient who was over 100 years old looked at me today and said that he “just keeps living.” With no local family and a declining level of cognition, he doesn’t really know how his life is right now. There is not much that he can do for himself. I found myself wondering, especially with his comment, is he really living?
If the days just blend away and you are unaware is that considered a life? Some of my patients are so declined that they are almost waiting around for death to remember them. A patient today told me that she was seeing “angels with horns”… Whatever the visions she was seeing, it was almost like her unconscious self was just calling her season of change to come.
People say that there is no beauty in death. Think about the trees… they are arguably their most beautiful when the leaves are actually dying and falling to the ground. The death of the leaves gives us such a glorious kaleidoscope of colors that causes us to step back and marvel at the beauty of their last chapter. I am learning that this also happens for people. The beauty lies in a life lived. The beauty lies in the completion of a life cycle. The beauty lies in their pain and agony of waiting for death to be gone.