Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - The Other End of Life

Part of sustainable living is thinking of, and honoring, the "other end of life". 

My spouse was talking on the phone to his sister, who is several years younger than he is. (He is in his early 60's).  He was talking about going through the various seasons of life. 

We are entering a portion of life, my spouse and I, too often devalued in our Western society.  That should not be. In some societies, the elderly are honored as keepers of wisdom.

Several months ago, I blogged about "human wormholes" and my spouse's last living aunt, who was alive when the Titanic sank and when millions died in a worldwide flu epidemic.

Today, I have something sad to report.  My husband's aunt, at the age of 102, fell and broke her hip while plumping pillows.   She is hospitalized.  Surgery is scheduled for Monday.

But we all know what usually happens when people that old fall.  We may be losing her wisdom in the not too distant future.

Her son, who lives with him, has to make some very hard decisions now, about where and how his mother will spend the rest of her life. 

When I told my son the news about his beloved great aunt, he exclaimed "what was she doing [making a bed] at her age?"

Well, she was doing what she was doing.  Living life.  She knew the day would come, no matter what she did - the day that will come to us all, no matter what we do or try to delay that day.  We can't be afraid to plump a pillow, so to speak.  But too many of us, me included, can be.

I am reminded of a fellow blogger who lives in Great Britain, Francene Stanley.  She and her husband are both older than me, and she gave me these words today, in reference to another elderly relative I have.

"Beauty is fleeting, to be enjoyed, to be embraced, to be hugged close, and then, let go."

To honor Aunt T, I rerun this post:

Treasured Links to the Past - Or Human Wormholes?

She is what some call a human wormhole.  And I hope she'll forgive me for saying so, because she knows I love her very much.  It's not the most elegant name, the "human wormhole" but if you think about it a little, the name is a bit catchy.

Yes, I know she looks like a woman of a certain age.  To be exact, she's 102 years old.  But she's so much more.  She's a treasured relative in my spouse's family.

She is a link to the past.  She may be physically frail, but her mind is as sharp as the day she was born. Maybe even sharper.

She's a living link to the past, the past that, for all but a handful of us, exists only in textbooks.  When I touch her, when I talk to her, I am touching history.

She was alive when the Titanic made its maiden voyage (1912).

She was alive when our country enacted a constitutional amendment permitting the income tax (1913).

She was alive during the post World War I flu epidemic (1918-1919) and vaguely remembers wagons traveling from house to house where needed to pick up the dead (what a childhood memory).

We are fascinated by human wormholes.  I've blogged about some of them myself, from the living grandson of a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845 to a man who witnessed Lincoln's 1865 assassination and lived to tell the story on a late night game show in 1956.

One story has an interesting twist.  It is said that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in the Civil War, shook hands with both former President John Quincy Adams (born in 1767) and a young/future President John J Kennedy (whose life was cut short by assassination in 1963).  I can not find any firm evidence for this having actually happened (there is a fascinating discussion online about whether it might have been possible, though). However, Holmes did have a link to more than just the Civil War, where it is said he once saved Lincoln's life.

Holmes, who lived from 1841 to 1937, had fond memories of his grandmother, who could remember red coated English troops marching through the streets of Boston at the beginning of our Revolutionary War. When she was five. In 1776.

If I live long enough, I might be a human wormhole, too.  I don't know if that makes me happy - or scares me a little.

Do you know anyone who would qualify as a human wormhole?


  1. Gosh, what an amazing age! I am sorry to hear about her fall.
    At the moment, I have to admit to be worrying about the Ebola epidemic, it is only a matter of time. I suppose we have to enjoy life while we can.

    1. We do need to enjoy every day like it is the last. But we may find that Ebola is less of a risk than first thought. One never knows.

  2. The old are neglected too much these days. I think this will change as people are dying much older.

    1. Our society tends to neglect the elderly. Just visit the nearest nursing home. Too many times, you are so right.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you. The news right now is good, all things considered.

  4. Not only human wormholes, these aged people are a font of knowledge, inspiration, and history. Where else can we turn to learn these things? They are undervalued, to say the least. Alana, I do hope your auntie will recover and be able to go home to plump more pillows. So sad that she fell.

    1. They are so undervalued. We must change how we treat elderly in our society.

  5. I'm not a wormhole, but I remember coaching at the Olympic Training Center a few years ago and a young woman asked why most people on the women's team in my day had short hair. I explained that practicing 2-3 times a day and showering after each practice, long hair would never get dry because we didn't have blow dryers back then. This was greeted by a collective gasp from the young athletes - "You didn't have blow dryers?!"

    1. I call myself a living history museum. I am in my 60's and used to work with a young man in his 20's. He was amazed that the everyday (to me) technology I worked with in my younger days.I hear you!


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