My Dad on Aging and Death

by Christina on December 27, 2010

Thought you might enjoy reading this short essay my dad just wrote this about his aging, illness, and death:

Reflections on Aging and Death

I’ve been sick over Christmas. Virtually all my life (I’m now 63) I’ve been full of energy and enthusiasm and rarely get sick. I’m one of the healthiest people around and exercise daily for an hour.

Getting sick this Christmas was a lesson in getting real about mortality. I’m usually so fit, healthy, and strong that I feel I’ll live to be a hundred and still be doing handstands in my 90s. After getting sick this Christmas though, I suddenly feel vulnerable. I sense death whispering in my ear and I feel intimations of mortality, like a shark sensing blood in the water.

Getting old is vexing. Every year I’m a little less the vigorous person I used to be. Perhaps this is offset by increased wisdom, but I can’t be sure of that.

Old men can get grumpy, hard of hearing, unfocused, selfish, foggy, and self-absorbed. Deterioration in brain function can exacerbate all these negatives. Both our curiosity and compassion can take a nose-dive.

The person I was when I was at my noblest and most capable (perhaps I’m at that age right now) will slowly decline, like a statue chipped away by age and weather. That funny, caring, thoughtful, patient, and perceptive person in his 60′s will begin to fade.

My essential self will die a long time before my actual death.

Will my loved ones remember me as I was at my prime? Or will they make the same mistake I have repeatedly made over my lifetime with old people, and look at me as an elderly curmudgeon and forget the person I was before I became deaf, diseased, and decrepit?

~Chris Palmer

My parents (I love this picture!)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TIM LORENZ December 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Does this mean Chris is considering giving up those head stands? Oh no! Four years younger than your Dad, I can certainly relate to his sentiments on aging. My hope is to be a funny, cute and only occasionally cranky little old man someday. When physical and mental issues begin being truly bothersome… then it’s time to consider Plan B.

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Chris Palmer December 28, 2010 at 2:26 am

Dear Tim, I appreciate your delightful note very much. You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still doing headstands daily and loving them! Yes, we all need to think about Plan B. We die very badly in America. Best, Chris

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Liz December 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for posting this- I enjoy reading things about death because, as your Dad mentioned in the above comment, “we die very badly in America”. I want to change that for myself.

My father is nearly 80 and has lost a little hearing and a little memory, has a hard time finding the words at times, and can get lost in his thoughts, but what I’ve witnessed over the years is a man who continually thrives because of his passion for life and those he shares it with. He lost his dearest friend over a year ago and I thought it might be the end of him. He became extremely depressed and his health took a nose dive. But he pulled himself out of it, found more things in his life to focus on, and now looks healthier than I’ve seen him in years. It showed me the power of the mind and how being active in both mind and body can be rejuvenating- even to a slightly grumpy old man!

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lizzie December 28, 2010 at 5:14 pm

What a lovely picture! Get well soon!

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