I’ve been contemplating mortality lately – a natural thing, I suppose, as one progresses along the human timeline. But I have been experiencing rapidly increasing reminders lately, and it’s starting to feel a little uncomfortable.
Just this week, for example, I attended the 100th birthday of a dear friend and mentor from my theatre years. The party came off as planned, but – alas – without the guest of honor (who expired only nine months short of the date!) It never occurred to anyone to cancel and the party was well-attended, but there were a lot of other people missing as well. Still, the celebrants forged boldly ahead in spite of canes, wheelchairs, gray hair and faulty memories.
There were countless reminiscences about “the good old days”, of course. One dinner table conversation had me at the center of a long-ago exploit. I had absolutely no recollection of it, but I didn’t dispute it lest it turn out to be true. And anyway, it cast me in a favorable light, so what the hell!
I found myself looking around at the festivities wondering which one of us would be next. I usually comforted myself at such gatherings with what a full life he/she had. Or if it was a life cut short, what a shame and a waste of talent it was. This time a new thought crept into my musings: well, he is out of it now. He doesn’t have to worry about climate change, senseless wars, political corruption or clueless voters any more. He’s done, after living a full life.
It’s not that I haven’t thought that before, but it’s the first time I remember actually being envious.
Like most Boomers, I have always staunchly believed in my own immortality. I’ll admit that my thirtieth birthday was a little rocky, as I breached the demarcation between “us” and “them”, but all in all I’ve managed to blithely ignore most signs of maturation. For example, when my teenaged daughter made me a grandmother waaaaaaaaayyyyy too soon, I simply banished the “G” word from my house and have happily embraced the honorific of “Bubbe” ever since. (Where I live nobody knows what it means anyway.)
I have actually expected to grow old gracefully and looked forward to the freedom from worry over what everyone thinks about me and what I do. Unfortunately I have yet to reach that desired stage. I still care waaaaaaayyyyyyyy too much about what people think. When, I’m wondering, will I reach that blissful stage?
And then there is the matter of the hereafter, about which I have spent very little time contemplating. In fact, it’s hard to find anything at all that I have no opinion at all on, so this is a rarity.
Which leaves me with William Saroyan’s assessment: “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?”