The conversation continues and gets a bit more serious as Connie and Adelaide discuss death, making preparations to remain in their own homes, while offering more examples of the gifts of aging.
Pat: Continuing on the theme of mystery, death strikes me as full of mystery. How do you conceive of death?
Adelaide: My image of death is where my ashes are placed in the ground and they connect with the roots of a tree and give off a tiny spark of light, which becomes energy in the form of resurrection.
Connie: Energy never disappears. Personality can disappear. I try not to get caught up in thinking in terms of personality, but in terms of essence. I find it ridiculous when people say they will be reunited with their loved ones in heaven.
Pat: Earlier you touched on the gifts brought about by aging. Are there other gifts that come to mind?
Connie: For the first time in my life, I’m alone, following the death of my partner two years ago. I find the gift in living alone allows me to be undisturbed. Without the presence of another I am expanding in a new way. There is no one to reflect back to me, so a new aspect of my life is opening.
Adelaide: I’ve been alone since 2000 when I became a widow. For me, I can’t get as deeply quiet if I’m living with someone.
Pat: What don’t you like about aging?
(Great laughter from both women)
Adelaide: The physical changes to be sure. (Adelaide has taken daily walks for most of her life. At 90 she’s reduced them to a mile a day. In bad weather she rides her exercise bike.) I feel tensions around everyday decisions, which reflect my need to hire more help for my garden, etc.
Pat: How do you imagine living your remaining years?
Both women recently purchased Splash Medical Alert devices, tiny electronic gadgets, which they can call in an emergency. Last winter Adelaide fell on the ice and broke her wrist, promptly calling her alert which ordered an ambulance to her home. They also have joined “Full Circle America,” another support for living alone. This program places a small camera in the home to monitor the consumer to make sure they are safe and haven’t fallen, etc. So far they have not opted for the cameras but are open to such.
Adelaide: I’m ready to go. My greatest fear is to live too long. I don’t like the diminishment that comes with age. My friends are disappearing. It’s not my world anymore. I don’t even own a computer.
Connie: I contemplate the end of life a lot. My objective now is to live in the present.
Adelaide: It has been a privilege to live a long life. I have needed this time to become what I’m becoming. I would not want to die before I had a chance to be quiet and alone and thoughtful. I’m now clearer about myself.
Connie: Life at this stage is not about thinking but experiencing.
Pat: How do you want to be remembered?
Connie: I want to lose my footprints. I think building monuments to the deceased is ridiculous.
Adelaide: Agreed. I’m not invested in how people think of me.
(At this point we had talked for almost two hours and it felt like time to end lest I wear out my welcome. Before we concluded Connie left the room and came back with a poem she had recently written about aging. She read it aloud and gave me permission to reprint it here.)
Connie’s Poem about Aging:
Now I am old.
Now I have no use for the habit of protection.
I feel most of all what has been feared and refused.
From my heart’s isolated chambers there flows ache and gratitude.
Together they melt into a strange love.
Love even everywhere
And right now
in this moment,
my single song.
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