One of my gaggle of 3 older gentleman at the retirement center has died. (Blog 7/15/15) I feel his absence though I’d known him only a few months. He’d been a judge in his working life. His wife had died not long ago and he admitted he didn’t see much point in going on. The remaining two musketeers took his demise philosophically, one of them having been at his bedside when his friend passed. “It was a privilege to be with him at the end. A good man. A very good man.”
I agree and wonder that when a person, like the judge, is gifted and has his or her wits about them, society treats that individual like an obsolete toy and smiles to see him or her asleep in a sun lighted chair. Feeling pointless isn’t a condition of old age; it’s a sentence imposed by society. As one of the remaining three admitted when he left to have lunch with his son’s in-laws: “I like to go there. They accept me.”
The wistfulness of those words set my bones on fire. “Grave men, near death see with blinding sight.” (Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gently into that Goodnight.”) Why should the wisdom of age be treated with disdain? Perhaps it is because the old know what we fear. “…we are visitors here, passing through a great mystery.” (William Falk, The Week, September 11, 2015, pg. 5)
So quietly our friends leave us, softer than a whisper and yet the effect breaks us down and leaves us bent with tears… those of us who also wait.
In our society, often the place for the old is an institution where children and grandchildren take consolation in the knowledge their loved ones are safe. But safe from whom? Death is what they… we… face once we are robbed of the youthful illusion that somehow we will escape our destiny. From the old comes the final, important wisdom: how to confront defeat with grace; how to accept consciousness as an incandescent flicker, a breathless moment when we are privileged to glimpse a blinding, clairaudient communion. Then, the light goes out and we dream… or forget.
(Originally posted 10/29/15)