No expiration on inspiration

Columnist April Lewis writes about aging and death

We live too long.

Four words out of the mouth of an octogenarian on the cusp of her next decade. A woman who has lived a long and adventurous life with no signs of her demise.

She will likely be one of many Canadians who will reach 100 years old, and by then the announcement will not be made by the local TV weatherman as it will not be anything out of the ordinary.

With all the media coverage about dying with dignity, we can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us Zoomers.

Now, it is not my intent to wade into this timely and controversial debate except to say, we are all going to die. That is for certain.

And because we baby boomers are used to having things our way, needless to say, we will have a choice when our time comes. To depart this earth in a time of our choosing in a peaceful and uneventful fashion without repercussions for those left behind. Of that I am certain, the Supreme Court appeal notwithstanding.

As someone who has spent her entire career in health care, it still baffles me why we are so afraid to talk about death.

Even in the hospital setting where I worked, we were requested to use the words “expired” when someone died. My Visa “expires” – that is the only time I use this word.

And we resort to other euphemisms such as “passed away” or “passed on.”

When someone is born, we don’t say, “My child passed into the world” or was “inspired” at the time of their birth. Although looking back, as a parent, we hoped our kids were infused with a modicum of inspiration.

Why do we have such difficulty in using the ‘D’ word?

About 50 per cent of Canadians don’t have a will. That speaks volumes.

We live in a Western world that defies death as well as denies death.

As our friends and relatives are starting to leave us in their 60s, dying too young, we can’t help but ponder on our own mortality.

Just like the above-mentioned octogenarian who has ample time to reflect on a colourful life – a life that started in England where she was born into privilege. A sheltered existence shattered by the assault of a world war where the pain of life reared its ugly head too soon.

No opportunity for a formal education but instead a new start in a promising, young country called Canada with a handsome Canadian husband and an uncertain future but a pocketful of dreams.

Then came a handful of children and some hard times. But she was blessed with perseverance and strength and an uncanny ability to roll with the punches and laugh at the same time. A modeling career and various jobs in the hospitality business. Her career ended with the Peace Arch News where she retired from the front office at age 69.

She, too, is a writer.

Tranquility lays gently down its peacefulness,

And, with the evening, calms and draws the mind to kneel

In reverence to its benediction.

It is the end and the beginning of the day’s reward

The quiet erasing of the daily score that leaves no mark

No memory unkind, no half-turned agony of soul.

It is a healer. A layer on of hands.

An Understanding.

Deep into the heart, the clamor fades.

The lights are dim.

And the Wanderer comes back home.

Thursday, this resilient woman will celebrate her 90th birthday.

Happy birthday, Mum!

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

 

 

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