I just started a new book given to me by a friend — “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. I don’t usually write about something I have not finished reading, but the beginning of the book is intriguing, and I’m expecting subsequent chapters to be equally interesting.
The book is about the modern experience of mortality and how modern medicine has changed the experience — or how it has not, take your pick. The true fact of the matter is we are getting older every day. I look in the mirror and wish I could make the extra lines in my chin and neck disappear. I guess I could with the right snip here and tug there, etc., and maybe that would make me feel better about myself.
But would it make me feel any better inside? I know it won’t make me live any longer.
There’s no escaping the tragedy of life. Death will come in some form or fashion. As I wrote this, I received a text that my good friend’s granddaddy died the previous evening. I’m not sure anymore how to respond to news like this. I know his grandfather lived a long life with a wonderful family and many good friends. I’m not sure if he suffered much — but I guess we should expect some suffering as we move through this thing called life, right?
A follow-up text just came through from another friend that read, “Sorry to hear that.” And yet we know death is coming. We want to be both supportive and encouraging at the same time. I hope when I die, someone will say, “Rich always said he wanted to go to heaven.”
For me, death is knowing I will be alive again, living with my Father and Creator forevermore. And I’m sure there are many folks out there who think much the same. But what about my life here on Earth? Wouldn’t I like to have as much of that as possible? You bet. But I don’t think I get to make that decision.
This got harder as I kept writing. I guess that’s how it is when one ages and creeps closer to the inevitable; it becomes harder to talk about death. And I believe that is where the book is going to take me — to a place where I can find it easier to talk about death as part of life versus an end in itself.
My own take on medicine and mortality seems to be very much in line with the author’s. Gawande writes, “You don’t have to spend much time with the elderly or those with terminal illness to see how often medicine fails the people it is supposed to help.”
He is right. I have been there; my guess is many of you have been there, too. And yet modern medicine has also saved many lives. We have the ability to live longer than ever before. But does that include living better lives as well? I think much of that answer relies on each individual and their expectations about life and living on.
Another text recently came from my wife: “Very sorry to hear about George.”
More to come, my friends …
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