Old and Dying – Why We Are Still Alive

geriatric lady

Sweaty, well-worn, in bike-ware, she was eating comfortably with her friend.  I kept trying not to stare and just had to fight it!  I wanted to imprint her shiny wrinkled yet blooming geriatric status and break down what I saw into categories of self-care moves to grow old by.  She looked really good.

I managed to finish eating at, (Oh my word! Yum! My new binge and bolt location,) Zinc Cafe, without ruining her appetite with a big hug and smooch from crazy-staring-stranger, me.  I almost congratulated myself, it was so hard not to do.  Nevertheless, when walking out I did stop and tell her she was beautiful and that I wanted to grow up to be her.  She bloomed even more, right there and then.  It was swell.  Good food.  Good role-model to remember.

We think it is our best years that people will identify us by.  But they do not just do that.  They think of us as how we are now too.  More importantly is how we think of ourselves – of Me.

It is different for everyone.  Why we want to be here.  Understanding why, is a universal interest.  It is the other side of value in the aging process.

My parents are getting old.  I am.  My patients and their parents are getting old.  We are dying.

My dad is old.  He just turned seventy-nine.  He is not wearing bike shorts.  He is not a blooming geriatric.  But I value him and saying why, well, I realize starts with “Me.”  It is not because of him thirty years ago. It is about his life these last thirty years.  It is about his Me, now.

The present does not prove nor negate the past.  Our value is more than that.

Sometimes I visit community practitioners.   Please visualize that all of this is in the middle of their busy clinic day, racing between exam rooms to meet patient needs.  I am standing at a nurses station perhaps, dressed in something über professional, (to hide the gypsy in me as well as I can.  But if it were you, you would not be fooled by the cut of my lapel!)  I catch the eye of the clinician and receive a strained smile, almost hearing her say, “Come on!  I’m dying here!  I have three patients waiting!”  But generally they do not actually say it, generally.  And sometimes, they are snagged by the magic of connection, take my elbow and draw me away into a private space where they can share their story.  In a matter of moments.

We are skilled at shaving moments here and there.  Skilled at putting as few words into a fat minute that can convey the large concept needed just Now!  We learn this over brow-beating years of managed care medical practice, personal choices, convoluted expectations and need to please – self, other, insurance or what not.  When clinicians share stories, we do it like we are late catching the train to heaven.

From these visits, I get more to my quality of practice.  I get known, and get to know.  Awesome.  It is a newer part of my “work,” that I have been doing this, and I am loving it.  I meet the people who are the other side of our patient’s treatment team.  I meet people who are both human and medical clinicians.  Realness surrounds them.  Life stories come from them.  In a fat minute I hear about their past, gain some understanding of their present and from that, I am given much.  One physician told me of his beloved daughter who suicided, another of her husband’s chronic brain illness and how their family struggles.  I shared how my young cousin hung himself and that part of me who is groping toward that space and time before he died.

To know who we are despite our changing emotions and behaviors, our changing identities, improves our understanding of life value.  Somehow, Dad has known that, without bike shorts.  He continues to mentor me in that.  I do not know about the beautiful geriatric at breakfast, but who is to say she does not know her value?  Not Me.  But I am going to explore my own, for my sake.  I am getting old.

Self-Care Tip:  Look and look some more for why you are valuable.

Questions:  What is valuable about you, even though you have lost so much in life?  Why are you still alive?  Please tell us your story.

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11 thoughts on “Old and Dying – Why We Are Still Alive

  1. Okay. I’ve got this! My value…at 72 and very, very much NOT in biker shorts!!!…is that I’m still Mom and Grandma and they let me know that they need me and they love me. And I’m still needed at church where I am the only lay person on a weekly worship development committee. (The other members are both pastors and the director of music.) And, though it’s difficult, way too often, to be who I want to be as a housekeeper because of physical limitations, I am still a part of the planning of what needs to be done and I still do what I can when I’m able. And I’m still a friend to an 88 year old amazing women, who I call every day at least twice to make sure she’s okay and who depends on me to take her to the grocery store and the hairdresser and to buy a pair of shoes or to just go to lunch. And I’m also friends with several women my age (or older or younger) with whom I can share fun or fear at the age we are.

    Why am I alive? Who knows! God does and that’s most important because through God I can be the mom, grandma, committee member and friend that I am. 72 sounded terribly old when I was 40. Now, at 72, it’s hardly old at all…unless I think about it and wonder whether I’ll see my granddaughter graduate from college in, good grief!!, nine years, or whether I’ll see her get married and have kids, or whether I will outlive my husband who is 75. Then it get’s scary but, then again, at 50 I didn’t want to live another day and here I am and oh what I would have missed!!! We don’t know. We have no control (unless we do the stupid thing I was considering at 50). We live life as fully as we can, we don’t over-think it, and we thank God (at least I do) every day that, whether I can’t get out of bed in the morning or I’m up and running, I’m still here to be Mom and Grandma and…..

  2. I am still alive because I have that spiritual place in me, who is me, that is connected to every other persons spiritual place. And in that, in my spirit place, I am responsible to know it/me and others. I am still alive to nurture my spirit and others, the collective whole.

  3. I think about aging a lot, especially since I am practically 30, which for me is a big milestone. By 30, I always figured, I would have everything I ever wanted and be totally wise, gracious and amazing. Turns out it might take longer than that…haha 😀
    The physical aging process is wiggin’ me (and my almost-30 friends) out too. There is so much talk of creams and laser resurfacing and chemical peels and botox injections, oh my! I see new little lines emerging around my eyes and between my brows that did not used to exist and it makes me realize this getting older thing is real and unstoppable. I remember when my cousin Maegan who is 7 years older than me said she had noticed some lines, but that she liked them because they gave her character. Horrified, I struggled not to make a face (because that would have been rude…and I have my own wrinkles to worry about now). Then I remind myself of how futile and shallow an obsession with looking young is and I begin to think about what my value will be.
    I work with many retirement-age folks and they keep making the comment that they hope our new Math teacher next year (our current is retiring) will be young. I think what they really mean is relate-able, inspiring, motivated and passionate. Those are not qualities reserved for the young. Those are qualities of people who are awesome! I think my value will be in the contributions I give to the people in my life through personal growth and productivity. I know we can be awesome at any age.

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