Perhaps this is when we start to think more about death: when we stop looking ahead at being old enough and start looking behind at being too old.
Soon I’ll be old enough to stay up until 8pm, to watch PG movies, to wear lipstick, to go on a date, to drive, to vote, to rent a car. Milestones in the future that propel you older.
And then one day, you realize that you’re too old to have a child who’s in college before you retire, too old to stay up all night and go to work the next day, to learn to play basketball, find someone and be married for fifty years, have a child at all, spend a holiday with your grandparents.
I was walking through an art museum a couple of days ago, looking at sculptures and paintings and swords engraved with family crests. It struck me that we see the end of ourselves coming and we spend the rest of our lives on things we hope last after us. But does it matter? We’re gone either way.
Would we be better off without the technology, the modern comforts? If we spent our days working on our relationships instead of at fancy high-powered jobs? I think about all the hours we spend working and I can’t imagine that anyone on a deathbed looks back and remembers those hours the most fondly.
But then again, I’m watching my grandfather wither away. His wife has died. He’s alone. Some people say that you find meaning in life when you have children — they live on. But what if you’re near the end of your life and your kids just think of you as a burden? Having a rich family life — over sixty years of marriage and seven kids — hasn’t made his last few moments here any more joyful.
Maybe it’s not that the fear of dying alone is unfounded. Maybe it’s that it’s inevitable.