My grandmother died at the age of 83 in a rack-n-stack nursing home. My father-in-law, 80, is losing control of his body and his knowledge of the world about him. My mother, 79, has fallen enough that we are discussing nursing home options.
My retirement is planned to begin when I turn 70. Given the experiences of those about me it is natural to think of endings, both general and specific. It looks like I will have worked my entire adult life to support the last decade of my life. That puts a lot of pressure on those last days to be something worth waiting for, to go out with a proverbial bang. I feel kind of sorry for them, those poor last years. I know I wouldn’t want that kind of pressure hanging over me.
Some people may be up to the challenge of playing out their hand with skill and aplomb, but I must admit that I am not as well poised when it is my ending we’re contemplating. There’s a limit to how much meaning you can find assembling scale model airplanes.
I read this remarkable article today and found it provided a much needed alternative view of endings.
It tells the story of Peter Taylor, a man who has decided to shuffle off his mortal coil on his own schedule. Lest we wander too far down wrong rabbit trails, be aware that the man in question has decided to end the treatments for his HIV and let events take their (very rapid) course. I guess after 900 treatments over 21 years enough is enough. In his own words, he is preparing to go somewhere “where it’s always sunny”. The author describes him as “a gentleman on a very important mission”. Indeed, the last thing he did (before he does his last thing) was publish a book about his life. A man on a mission to the end. What better way can there be to wrap things up.
Worth a look. And some contemplation.