The Sadness of the End of Life
I guess it can never actually be "pleasant". The finality of the end of every life that will never return. It is unsettling to think it will, someday, happen to every kid, young adult, middle age and elderly person. For some, it will come much before their time and it seems more tragic in our minds because they are not at the end. But, it remains as sad when the person is at the end of the road of life, even if functional.
I responded to an estate sale and upon arriving of this well worn home filled with memories to someone, an old man, 90 yrs. old, in a wheel chair, sat. I asked if the place was his, and he told me it was. While his mind was active and alert in conversation, his body was well beat by Father Time. His eyesight was questionable - it looked like he had memorized where obstacles were. The house was well picked. I asked where he was moving, he was moving to an assisted care facility because he could no longer live alone. His wife had died five years earlier. He never expected to outlive her. They had lived there for 14 years and before that 50 years across town. He had even sold the home when an offer was made he could not refuse.
As places go, it was nothing special, but it was "home" for him. I asked him about his kids, they were all doctors and lawyers living in Colorado. Something must had happened years ago because it would seem a family member would have been there to help their dad. None were. He seemed bothered when I asked about them. It sometimes happens with families as time and distance almost makes it hard to believe they are your kids or parents.
He went on to tell me how as they aged, they downsized until it was just basic belongings. A few sofas, clothes, beds, appliances. I saw this with my own mom, from a huge home filled with truly high class furniture or clothes, to a very basic studio assisted care room until she died.
In both cases, it reminded me that in a sense, they were waiting for their time to end. The old man told me that when you reach 70+ you are not really bothered by death as you were when you much younger because it IS going to happen. You accept the finality of it. Death no longer shocks you.
Our conversation had gaps as the man simply stared outside the window. I just know he was thinking of his life, regrets, the future and a real loneliness. He lived alone with a cat for years and that is all he does. He is tied to the wheelchair and relies on whomever he can for errands. Maybe by this age, at least for him, he is ready. There is nothing left to look forward to. Is surviving another day in a wheel chair a good thing?
I thought, what does he do all day? He is fixed in a wheel chair, cannot drive, cannot see well, lives on SSI based on his earnings during his work life. His family is a cat. An occasional visitor. I felt an overwhelming sadness of this end to a once vibrant life. It was hard to imagine him even at age 60. He told me that in his "wildest" dreams he never thought he would reach 90 nor would be in the condition he was in. I guess it must be like when I was 16, trying to imagine myself at age 30. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't.
The old man looked around speaking about past events and memories found in the home, some good and bad. His wife had died there. When I left, I was sort of speechless of what to say. It was very sad seeing him there in the chair staring out the window. I wished him "good luck", yes, it was trite, but what else does a stranger say?
Before I left, he commented that he had got through the Great Depression, World War 2, Korean War and had seen a lot of things. I remained silent as I experienced nothing like what he had. I got the feeling he was just waiting to get through this last stage so his soul could move on. There was nothing more in this world for him.
Since then, there is a bothersome thought in the back of my mind- was I seeing myself at the end? Disturbing.
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