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Who’s living to long!

The young woman protests: The old live too long; they take too much; they deprive the young of life’s limited goods and services.

She is young, O Lord; has not yet the vision to see down the long road, or the wisdom to interpret what she sees.

She does not realize that no person comes into life with the proviso that they depart at a given time. On the contrary, nature endows us with the instinct for self-preservation; to hold on to life, doing whatever it take to prolong it.

If that means hospital beds, doctors, continuing care, who had the right to forbid it?

Living equates with consuming, needing; food, shelter, services. That equates to jobs and income for others; a contribution to society. Once dead the needs stop; contributions stop.

Today’s youth is tomorrow’s oldster. At what age will my young friend think she has lived long enough, and be willing to go?

O Lord, let not this young women begrudge us our years. Help her to see that, even to the last breath, the old contribute to life, and take nothing away.

For weeks, I’ve started to write the response to this invocation, but I keep returning to the premise that perhaps the “young woman” was me who thoughtlessly told my grandmother, “The old live too long; they take too much, they deprive the young of life’s limited goods and services.”


I’ve become “today’s youth” who is rapidly turning into “tomorrow’s oldster,” and as such, clinging to the desire to appear spry enough to be a valued employee in a sea of younger, more desired workers. When a waiters calls my “madam,” I cringe. And my need “touch of my roots” is becoming a regular occurrence now that my lightly salt-and-peppered hair has turned into streaks of gray.

Even though Rich and I are frugal, and probably in no danger of ever becoming indigent, we worry constantly about whether our money will stretch enough to provide the food, shelter, services, and more importantly, healthcare we might need should we live into our eighties or with luck, nineties.

And ironically, few days pass when I don’t pine for my grandmother, yearning to speak with her, if only for a few minutes. But towards the end of her 90-years of life, when she’d grown frustrated with her failing eye sight, inability to write, and dwindling strength, I avoided calling her.

During this time, when we did talk, usually Sunday afternoons, she told me of her dreams, of winged angels. I told her to follow the angels, knowing they could free her from the anxiety of waking, and wondering what affliction would await her next.

And now, regrettably, I understand what she meant, when she wrote, “even to the last breath, the old contribute to live, and take nothing away.” I wish I’d told her just one more time how much she contributed to my life, and how little she asked for in return.