Old Age

Julie/ February 1, 2021/ Paul Brenner, MD, PhD

Now that I’m old (and I am sure that is the correct definition of my present age, 87), I’ve learned a great deal about aging. But it always boils down to acceptance and permission, since I’ve lost the ability to walk when I was 80 (after falling off a surfboard in Hawaii on my birthday). I further fractured my already fractured pelvis, as a result of cancer treatments, more then what it had been. I think I forgot to ask permission of the LIFE GODDESS. In any language it’s called, ‘STUPID.’

Old age is as if you were dropped out of a plane, and you suddenly fall into this age group. It is as if the realization of this time segment happens overnight. Suddenly, you find yourself in this unknown Wilderness Area of your life without instructions. You muse, ‘No one gives you any advice on how to navigate through this. How did it happen? I was just 60!’ Few have ever written about old age. Instead of having fear concerning what else is out there, similar to other wilderness areas with mountain lions, bears, snakes, etc.; there is only the realization that you
are all alone without a guide, handbook, and no one to call.

The usual fears of the unknown are replaced by admonitions: ‘Don’t fall!,’ ‘Be careful!,’ ‘Hold on to the walker!,’ ‘Did I take my medicine?,’ 'What’s that pain about?,’ ad nauseam. How did I get here? It doesn’t really matter if you are still living with your mate, or in a home, or living by yourself. The truth is you are alone, rummaging through the vastness of your mind where you and your fears co-exist. I can’t think of any fears at this moment… but?

Alone is not lonely. It’s all-oneness: a sacred place to meet yourself in peace and acceptance. And to remember skills learned, like speaking to LIFE; and knowing that all things in LIFE are imbedded in acceptance and permission. This is why you want to consume as much of LIFE as humanly possible. LIFE is your teacher of how to live; and, hopefully, how to die.

In old age, many questions come up about LIFE; and you search deeply for the answer. It is a serious self-exploration; since I never had anyone talk to me about the final stages of life at any age (or where folks can go to search out the mystery within that phase of life). Maybe each of us has to create our own survival kit. Everyone’s kit is filled with past experiences that have led the individual, at that moment in time, to either accept or deny their own death.

However, I have come to realize that, throughout my entire years, at every turn or stage of my life; I have been unconsciously preparing or learning to live in this present Wilderness and accept death as part of life. I have reviewed my existence at different turns and accepted all of it. It was one great trip. The good and bad without judgment. The bad, over time, usually turned out good; I realized at each turn. So what else?

I had already been aware that slowly I’ve been cutting the strings that have unconsciously bound me to deep attachments. I feel freer with each snip. The word ‘miss’ has faded out of usage. I don’t think of the past hardly at all, nor dwell on the future or how long I have to live (at least not today). I mistakenly thought, during one such moment, that I knew the place, time and way of my death; but was gravely (no pun intended) wrong. And more than thankful to live another sweet day.

My body feels lighter by the day. Sleeping is deeper, with short meaningless dreams that I rarely patch together. I find on awakening I have more shaking and general discomfort for the first hour. It is at that time that I’m aware I’m still alive. I want to see TV shows that touch my soul. Reading seems more superfluous. I am less disturbed about whether someone shows up or not. Beautiful thoughts or a meaningful documentary that I feel deeply, brings tears of truth to my eyes.

This is why you want to consume LIFE…for the truth. And also, LIFE is the only preparation for death in every moment that I know of. Spend time in Nature’s Wilderness, on its waters, in its mountains, play with LIFE.

And so, at the end, what is death? I have no freaking idea. Live into the answer. Hmmm?

Paul Brenner M.D.