Death is Not My Next Goal!

Feb 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Aging is a phenomenon which introduces all kinds of subjects and issues we would rather leave alone. As a retired pastor, I have found great and timid reluctance on the part of many senior citizens (and others) to broach the subject of death, being ready for it, making necessary practical plans and decisions and even admitting to its very likelihood.

Death, however, will happen to each of us, whether we admit, like it, deal with it or not. Thus, the question, why the hesitance? Discussing death does not speed its coming, nor prevent its happening.

Recent studies have shown that in the United States male longevity for a 70 year old male today will likely extend to 83.2 years. A female, aged 70, will likely live to 85.8. These statistics come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Depending on where you are on that scale, the news may be either good or not so good. There is a story making the rounds of a person who said, “I wouldn’t want to live to be 90,” to which his listening friend allowed: “You must not be 89.”

Dear Seniors, do not make Death your next goal, but remember, Denial is not a river in Egypt. There is room for some in-between choices here, in-between denial and talking openly and comfortably about death. If you don’t talk about it, or if you try to ignore its reality, you just create more problems. You make it something like the huge elephant in the room. Something unknown that is to be feared. It’s not an elephant… it’s just death, something that will happen to each of us. And talking about it doesn’t make it happen sooner. Most of us simply are not in control of when or how we die.

In order for Death to be removed from your list of life goals, it is not necessary to pretend it isn’t going to happen to you.

In addition to the practical issues of seeing a doctor and participating in appropriate care disciplines, there are other dynamics surrounding the “D” issue that need our attention.

1. Spend time with your significant other and/or family looking at the issues surrounding death and how they will be managed as necessity and wise assessment of conditions indicate.

2. Lay it all out. Do not skirt issues. Be courageous in opening those matters about which some will find discomfort and even embarrassment. Dealing with it now is better than delaying. Delay will create considerably more discomfort and likely more disagreement within the family.

3. Go so far as to talk about what a memorial or funeral service would look like. Put it down in a record. Date it. Change it if necessary.

4. Open up issues like traditional burial or cremation and scattering of ashes. Deal with economic issues.

5. If more comfortable, invite a professional, a pastor or other who would not impose judgment, but allow for wide ranging issues to be exposed and addressed.

6. Maybe, make a group list of the issues that really would be helpful to discuss. Have Kleenex handy for those who will, naturally, have some emotional moments.

7. If/when some anecdotal stories are told, have someone write them down for recall when the time comes for a celebration of life.

8. While death is not our next goal, this exercise will begin to put it in its place.

Remember the maximum life expectancy in Sweden in the 1860’s was 101. It is now 108. And, by the way, 70% of the increase is attributed to death rates above 70. Given optimal genes and good medical care, no one, so far, has lived beyond 123. The good news is you and I have about a 1 in 2 billion chance to live to 120.

Death is not a goal, There is an old song which Virginia slaves used to sing at funerals: “Come down, death, right easy.” Let that be our song.

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