I’ve been listening to the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I’m a few chapters in, but I’m already finding the book very informative and thought provoking.
Gawande paints a compelling picture of what it means to grow old in our society and how old age has changed in recent history. Living over the age of 70 used to be a fairly uncommon achievement, but with modern medical advancements, it is almost commonplace. That fact has many implications for how the elderly are treated, and how they want to live in their twilight years.
The point that I have resonated with the most is that at some point, no matter how I take care of myself, my mind and body will start to break down. I will not be able to think as quickly as I can now. I will not be able to remember quite so well. My heart won’t pump blood as efficiently. My bones will become brittle. My muscles will shrink away. As Philip Roth put it, “Old age isn’t a battle: old age is a massacre.”
And there is nothing I can do to stop the decay. I can only put it off through healthy living. So I will seek a healthy life.
But in the meantime, while my mind is still sharp, I have things that I want to accomplish in my career. I want to start a business of my own. I want to make a big impact in every place I’m employed. I want to be influential in my field.
In the meantime, while my muscles are still strong, I have things I want to accomplish as a father. I want to play sports with my daughter. I want to teach her how to ride a mountain bike. I want to take her on a backpacking trip. I want to hug her and swing her around when she visits home after going away to college.
In the meantime, while my heart still beats with passion, I have things I want to accomplish as a husband. I want to take my wife on exotic trips. I want to provide a comfortable house for her to live in and a beautiful yard and garden for her to enjoy. I want to dream with her and partner with her to fulfill those dreams.
In the meantime, while my soul still burns with devotion, I have things I want to accomplish as a child of God. I want to introduce someone to Christ. I want to nurture another small group. I want to share my testimony with someone who needs to hear that others have been there, too.
And then, when old age sets in and my mind dulls, my muscles atrophy, my heart slows, and my soul flickers, I will look back on how I did not waste the strength, energy, and mental acuity of my younger days. I will reflect fondly with my wife on a life well lived. And I will anticipate eagerly meeting my Savior face to face.