Thursday, May 5, 2022
Recently, I accompanied a friend to conservation land which is dedicated to green burials. We were there to choose a tree. She had decided to have her eventual ashes optimized to nourish the roots. We spent a lovely afternoon communing with many trees until she found the one for her. As we walked and talked, she expressed the sense of peace that this process gave her, making her eventual death seem less daunting. She felt empowered by thinking through her own death and planning for it. I felt honored to share the experience with her. To me, it is a beautiful example of how conscious aging can help us live with intention.
Lately, it seems many of my conversations, with both friends and new acquaintances, somehow address the end of life topic. This may be related to the toll an unrelenting pandemic has taken, or to the loss of peers, including the role models and icons we’ve grown older with. These days, my mortality is less abstract, more immediate. When I was younger, it was answers I wanted. Like a toddler who incessantly asks “why” after every answer, I wanted to know. I was seeking certainty. Now, as an older person, it is the questions that seem more important. Conscious aging is helping me understand that the answers can keep unfolding. In the face of mortality, the big question for me now is, how do I want to live today?
Sitting on a bench, next to the soothing sounds of a creek, I noticed the bare branches of the trees, stripped to their essence. I was reminded that age can distill us to our essential and true selves, if we are open to it. In the fallow time of winter, new growth awaits beneath the surface. Everything in nature is simultaneously living and dying. I saw a meme that read “I am at that awkward stage between birth and death.” It brought a smile to my face because that is how aging can sometimes feel. I’m figuring it out the best I can as I go along. In older age, with a lifetime of experiences and resilience, I have more to draw upon in the process. And there is always something new to learn. I know maintaining a sense of humor will help me stay afloat in the flow of life, like the water continually floating in the creek. Life goes on even as everything passes.
I will die. In the meantime, I will be kind to myself, I will be kind to others and I will get on with living. I will continue to ask the questions: How do I choose to respond to each unfolding moment? How do I want to live today?