When people ask me what’s on my mind I sometimes say, “death…” but I don’t like to talk about it because it’s a downer. It’s the absolute oddest “thing” – death, I mean. It’s hard to talk about, to “get on top of…” to embrace, to integrate, to process, digest. But, we all go through it one way or another with a dear pet, friend, loved one or ourselves.
The inevitability of mortality sucks. So, sometimes we use wit to soften its edges. Or, maybe we surrender through tender sorrow or acceptance of change. I told friends last week, I wanted them to sing “Gone at last….” at my funeral. “Don’t call it a celebration of life?” It’s so California!
Getting older is a mixed bag, a vulnerable stage of absolutely not controlling one’s fate. You can eat well or exercise, but what comes home to us….is death. Some are in good health and vroom; they’re taken from us. Others, at the top of “their game, ” disappear just when we were planning a vacation.
Maybe they leave slowly while some others are still vibrant, falling in love at 80 or getting re-married at 90, even running marathons.
We wonder if the twitch in our eye or the bump on our arm is just a bump. There’s less driving in the dark and socializing. Unfinished business wakes me in the night, flashbacks, memories return in living color. Life seems effervescent but also clumsy. When a wish pops to mind, then I remember – there’s less time for that new college degree or relocation. How do I digest this next phase, relish it, or can it be swatted like a fly?
Small things glitter more, luscious café latte or sunsets seem more spectacular, luminous. Gratitude and awe grow deeper for every wonderment. There’s an echoing to it, what matters now, what will we do before the “deadline”?
It’s precious, not forever, fleeting like seeing a hummingbird appearing suddenly, hovering, getting nectar with their noses, moving fast but very still, staying at our window for only an infinitesimal moment.
On the “upside,” there’s a bit of weight released, like worry about gaining a few pounds or concern for the perfect couch or new lamps. There’s more permission to laugh loud, to say inappropriate things. Sometimes I use “the age card…. “honey, I’m too old to be nice anymore, I can’t help you cater your party.” I gave up being co-dependent years ago.
My generation saw great changes, victory through diseases and heart attacks healed. We’ve watched Watergate, 9/11 and women becoming judges. We’ve moved beyond a phone on the wall, to the advent of communication with the entire world available within seconds in our pocket.
Aren’t we lucky to be among the boomers? My parents had such a smaller group of elders to talk with. We have each other in multitudes! Our insights took 50 more years to accumulate. Let’s exchange conversations with young people, connecting the dots with their perspectives and different abilities, listening better.
Some of us throw in the towel on politics, “It’s up to the kids now,” but our input is priceless. Our heads are like little composites of history. Don’t give up but give your wisdom generously.
Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the Bay Area for over 35 years. Author, The Power of Being Heard. ConversationswithKaty.com. 707.548.8982