[It’s been a loooong time since I last posted. So: hello, again.]
Last week over lunch, a friend I’ve known since high school—Class of 1962—told me she hopes to live until eighty-six. What?
Her explicit, stark, and less-than-ten-years-left goal so rattled me I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. But a few days later, I am so grateful for this gift of reckoning she gave me.
Oldest of a large family, she’s already let her siblings know—”so they can get used to the idea,” she told me.
While touched by her thoughtfulness, it’s her specificity I find most startling. And yet exhilarating. Daughter of parents who’d called death The Inevitable and talked as much about end-of-life decisions as about their grandchildren, I had nevertheless not yet let a stark truth penentrate: like my friend’s projected number of years left to live, there’s a very specific number for me, too! And, yes, maybe that number could be less than ten?! Oh. (Since both my parents died at 95, maybe I’d unconsciously glommed down on that very optimistic, blurry, in-the-mists number? Maybe. But no more.)
Both my sister and sister-in-law died in the past eight months; never have I been so aware of The Inevitable. Never have I been so grateful for Life; never has it been more precious. This recent reckoning, though, asks a slight re-write of that wonderful Mary Oliver question, doesn’t it: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, precious, and dwindling life?”