Sunday, April 8, 2018

How old was he?

Why is it that when you mention the news that a famous person, or even a not-so-famous person, has died, the most common response is, "How old was he?" Or she?

Maybe that's just the response of seniors like me and many of my friends. Are we silently comparing the longevity of the just-deceased with our own? Oh, he was only 62; I've already outlived him. Hmm, he died at 67; I'm going to be 67 later this month. Or, he was 77; I've got a good 10 years before then.

We also compare our current age with the age at which our parents died. My dad was 90. My mother is nearly 95 and still going strong. Those are encouraging numbers.

When we hear of someone who has lived to be 100 or more, it inspires hope. We think that maybe, maybe we'll live that long. Of course, it's also a question of quality of life in those later years. One of my favorite lines is from French Smith's character in the alien sitcom "Third Rock from the Sun"; told that smoking would take 10 years off his life, he responded, "Yeah, but those are lousy years anyway."

A huge factor in quality of life is the people in your life. Without certain of them, the quality severely diminishes.

Health and mentally stimulating interests are factors too. People who become couch potatoes when they retire tend to die sooner than those who remain active.

I admire people who live full lives right up to the day they die. I admire people like our friend who went to India just for the experience, even though doctors told her not to fly so soon after a major operation. I also think about our friend Barbara, whom I was privileged to know for a little while, who told a joke to her doctor then died instantly where she sat - we'd all like to go that quickly and painlessly, I think.

I don't know how many years, or days, I have left. Or which of our loved ones and friends will precede us. No one does. 

The chart suggests, as a non-smoker, I should live another 17 years. D-L another 14. But actuaries are averages, not forecasts. They don't take into account genetics or lifestyle (such as my plans to do a parachute jump) or even the will to keep living. Will alone won't keep you alive, but if it did I plan to be around for a long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment