I’m Dying (Part I)

img_3229I’m dying.

And so are you. Not today (to the best of my knowledge). Actually, I don’t know when. But I do know the stats.

I have roughly a 35% chance of dying sometime in the next 18 years (before I’m 80). And about a 75% chance of kicking the bucket sometime in the next 28 years (before I reach the age of 90).

Your grandmother’s odds are better, Vera. Women have the benefit of living with men, which apparently is good for them. Women live longer. Living with women, on the other hand, apparently takes its tool on men. (Well, perhaps there are other possible explanations for this discrepancy in life expectancies!)

If you consider our odds as a married couple, it’s highly likely one of us (not sure who) will be alive in 18 years, but there’s only about a 50/50 chance that one of us will make it to 90.

All of this is relevant for two reasons: 1) financial planning and 2) life planning.

The way I figure it, if we intend to take any major trips, we should be doing it in the next 13 years, before I turn 75. And the sooner, the better. With each passing year, the risks increase.

On average, 75 is a turning point for the body. One shouldn’t be surprised to see things unraveling in that 75 to 80 time frame. Joints and organs wear out. Moreover, the mind may stop hitting on all cylinders (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing). Hence, the travel plans: England (your grandmother’s upcoming great English garden tour), Scotland (Scotch distillery trip with friend), Vietnam, Egypt and who knows where else.

But, of course, I’m referring to averages and odds. There’s no guarantee that I (or any of us, for that matter) will see 2018. Or February for that matter.

I do not find these facts to be depressing. Let’s face it, I’ve been in the process of dying since I came into the world at Seidel Hospital in Mechanicsburg, Pa. We call it living, but we could just as easily call it dying.

Instead, what we typically call dying is the stage when one’s physical condition deteriorates to the point that it’s reasonable to expect death in the near term. Not that everyone knows. Plenty of us will expire without notice, whether it be from a sudden, unexpected heart attack or stroke, auto accident or some other unforeseen event.

I came close to death more than once, but each time came out unscathed (well, perhaps not entirely). But it could just as easily have gone the other way. Who knows what will happen the next time? Or when the next time will be.

I don’t. But I don’t worry about it, either. There is nothing I can do about it. No amount of worry or belief can alter the reality of the human condition; it could only detract from the present and the life I have remaining.

Of course, some people think there is something you can do about it. Indeed, some people believe we don’t die, but merely leave our shells (bodies) and move on to a different reality. Some believe in a heaven and hell.

Some people think you can be “saved” and have a blessed eternal life in “heaven” while those who weren’t “saved” go to hell or suffer some other unimaginable fate. I appreciate the appeal of such a story. Many of us would like to see the bastards get their just desserts in the end.

But I don’t buy it. If there is a god who’s as loving and powerful as people say, there’s no way he (or she) would countenance a place like the hell people describe. Frankly, I have enough trouble believing a loving all-powerful god would countenance all the crap that goes on here (on earth).

I also think it’s rather silly to think a deity would set up a reward-punishment system of the kind described in some churches. As a parent, I’d never play such a manipulative game with my own kids, at least not with such high stakes. Would a loving creator stoop to such a level? I doubt it.

So that’s where I come out with regard to the whole afterlife issue: perhaps there is something after death, perhaps there isn’t. There is no way of knowing and, in any event, nothing I can do about it. Long ago I realized that if one has to earn one’s way into heaven, it’s beyond my reach. And that heaven must be a really small place.

Actually, I don’t think anyone (or barely anyone) believes they’re going to heaven to spend an eternal bliss. If they did, they wouldn’t be so deathly afraid to die.

Many people, including ardent professed believers in the afterlife, will spend just about anything to keep death at bay for even a few more days and hours (especially when it’s someone else’s money they’re spending, for even conservatives becomes socialists in those end times). You’d think more people would be eager to get to heaven. But very few are.

That’s not to say that I’m any more courageous or selfless than anyone else. Or that I won’t fear death. I don’t today. And I hope I won’t in the future. But I might. Only time will tell.

I do know that I fear other people’s death. Well, perhaps fear isn’t the proper word. Dread. That’s it.

I’ll have more to say about that in the next post.

(P.S. The photo was taken at Death Valley a few days after Christmas last year.)

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