I was recently interviewed at a local radio station for my new book, Trompe l’Oeil. Our conversation went well past the plot and into larger, philosophical questions. One of the questions was about my age. At 76 did death play a large part in my thoughts, the interviewer wondered. The question was bold and not one I had expected. But I had no trouble answering because thoughts of death do play a role in my everyday life.
My confession may terrify the young and while I hope to live well and as long as I can, death’s image is no longer the stuff of horror movies but more like the suitor depicted in Emily Dickinson’s poem which begins,
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
Like Dickinson, I know death will come for me. I prefer that it not be now, but I have no doubt that it will come. That certainty puts, not fear into my daily life, but a poignancy to every moment, an appreciation for the years, hours, or minutes I have left. The young are blinded by immortality. Death seems a distant creature who preys upon the careless. Youth spends its time peering down the road ahead , as if life were a grand prix, and so they fail to admire the daisies at their feet.
Age, fortunately, slows us down and forces us to savor each precious day. How am I to measure the goodness of the moment without the equal awareness that, once experienced, it is lost forever?
Alix Kates Shulman, an octogenarian novelist, said it best. Fulfillment “is not about lists and plans but about remaining open, moment by moment, to life’s startling serendipity.” (“Tearing up the checklist” by Alix Kates Shulman, More Magazine, 2/2013, pg. 144)
(photograpy courtesy of rf-zadrot-pvp.ru)