I have been thinking about my family (most of whom have died) and laughing to myself. Why laughing? I mean death isn’t a laughing matter, right? I’ll let you all decide.
Last summer everyone in my family was at my house. There were many young people, and I was suddenly inspired to talk to them about life. So I made them sit down in the living room and listen to me. What I wanted to do was reassure them that growing old is not something to be dreaded. That, in many ways, it is freeing, in the sense you don’t feel like you have to please everyone. Or worry about your family as, if you’ve done your job as mother and grandmother, everyone is able to handle their own challenges. They just need your loving support and trust.
Anyway, that was my goal. However, I made a poor choice of words for my first sentences. I said, “All right, guys, this is what I want to tell you. You are going to grow old and die.” There was a stunned silence and then my twenty-four-year old, granddaughter, Kristan, said. “Thanks Mamie, that’s very inspirational.” When the laughter finally died down, I continued on a more positive note.
I come from two large families. The O’Flaherty clan had three girls and six boys, the Stoner family had six girls and one boy, my father. Except for two, they lived to be old and relatively healthy. I find reassuring that most also retained clear minds until they “went home.” My Uncle Dan lived to be 99 and after a stroke, he was comatose for several months. He wasn’t suffering, but the family didn’t understand why it was taking so long. Another aunt was with Hospice for five months, bedridden but in no pain. I would visit the hospital every day, go to her bedside and ask, “How are you doing, Aunt May?” and she would say, in a gentle voice, “Just waiting.” When the doctor called me at work to tell me she had finally died, I heard myself say, “Are you sure?”
When I asked my Aunt Maude why it had taken both so long to die, she matter-of-factly said, “You can’t count on old people to die.”
You now know what to say when I’m 105 and still blogging.