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Being Mortal

December 12, 2014| By

Mortality is an interesting subject because, while we all know we’re going to die, we’re not a culture well prepared for it.  Our hope is that medical science will come to our rescue to give us extra years.


As youngsters, who knows of death? We only learn about it when our dog, cat or goldfish dies. Even if our parents had to take our pet to the vet to be euthanized, the only thing we understood was that “Fido” or “Kitty” never came home. There’s an emptiness but not an understanding.

Even though we eventually appreciate the difference between life and death, when we’re teenagers and young adults, we feel we’re immortal. Death will never happen to us or even if it does, it’s so far in the future that there is no reality to it. We live our lives as if there is no tomorrow. And as long as our parents are alive, we believe we’re protected from becoming mortal.

Living Healthier

There is some hope that we can cheat the grim reaper by some years if we live a healthier lifestyle. We know we can have chocolate, soda and fries occasionally, but appreciate that those are treats, not everyday fare. They’re indulgences because we know about fat and sugar and the havoc they can reap on the body. We’ve read enough in the news that says exercise is good for us. “Try to get your 10,000 steps in each day.” “Get your heart rate up a bit for a prolonged period of time.” “Work up a sweat as a sign you’re working hard enough.”

There was an article that appeared in the Atlantic,  “Why I Hope to Die at 75”, that is really controversial.  Just look at the comments by readers of his article to see how the author,  Ezekiel Emanuel,  stirred up a hornet’s nest.  After reading it, I had to wonder why anyone would want to set a date with death, especially if still relatively healthy.  As we age, we may experience more pains (which might actually go away with exercise) or start developing some of the conditions of old age (type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc.). Yet, if we stay active, both physically and mentally, we can remain an asset to our family and community so that our value would be missed if we weren’t still here.

There’s More Yet to Do

There’s always another mountain to scale, sunset to experience, or grandchild’s performance to attend. To not do whatever we can to stay healthy is our own crime on ourselves. In his article, Emanuel wants us to feel that by 75 years old, we’ve lost our creativity and our health. I staunchly disagree with him. The beauty of getting older and retired is that you now have more time to be creative. The famous artist, Anna Mary Robertson, better known by her nickname, “Grandma Moses”, didn’t even start her painting career until she was in her 70s.  There are enough centenarians still living on their own to prove that health doesn’t have to end at age 75.

Are we entitled to old age if we do unhealthy things to our body such as drinking too much, smoking, being overweight, especially when these are things we can control?  Should we look to medicine to fix the wrongs that have been self-inflicted? If you need help with taking control of your health, you might consider getting the book, To Eat or Not to Eat, That Is the Question – But Not the Only Question. Learning to make the best and healthiest decisions gives you a fighting chance for old age.

We Will Die One Day

We will die one day. That we’re sure of. How long we can stay mortal is the question. But it is each individual’s right to help with the answer. So, when you’re making your New Year’s resolution, keep in mind how much control you do have over your mortality, save for being hit by a truck or at this time of the year, “getting run over by a reindeer”.

Happy Holidays!  Enjoy the festivities.  Just remember to think in terms of moderation.  As Mary Poppins says from the movie of the same name, “a taste is as good as a feast”.

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