More and more I am focusing on my “remaining days.” For me, in my 80th year, those words refer to the unknown number of days, months and years that remain to me in which I will consider how to both LIVE WELL and prepare to DIE WELL. For any reader who is getting nervous or discouraged at my mere reference to “death”, take a risk and stay here with me.
The notion of remaining days can exist in many contexts. For instance, I’ve just completed the remaining days of summer this last week. I had planned to end the 2019 season with a last swim, and did so.
Another familiar way we can talk about are the remaining days, months or years is when reaching the milestone years of 30 or 50, 60 or 70. An earlier phase of life has just ended. In this case, with our unexpected gift of longevity there’s usually much more to come. The fact that we may feel those remaining days in a variety of contexts, will tend to provoke some urgency to consider the question, “What do I need to get done before this chapter or this season ends?” Or, “How shall I prepare for my next stage of life?”
I will admit that I first saw my life through the lens of a different kind of “remaining days” at 74. I was a little nervous. I had never before deeply contemplated a FINAL end, after which there would be NO NEXT PHASE. What ultimately surprised me was that dealing with the reality of my own mortality catapulted me into a different context for “what now?” and “what next?” I would have x number of days, months, years more to live and that would be that. As opposed to a next phase, there would be a next week or a tomorrow.
So, I started an exploration. I gathered friends equally curious. We talked. We laughed and cried. We posed a key question to ourselves: “What are the tasks of this final chapter of life?” Our tentative answers to ourselves resulted in a very lengthy self-created curriculum from which to select and prioritize our activities. Depending on age and energy, my friends and I took on projects which were important to each of us: We scheduled bucket list travels, learned to play Mah Jong, organized our family pictures, wrote our wills, donated our bodies to science, and talked to our families about our end-of-life wishes.
We wanted most of all to not leave a mess to our survivors. And as aging beings, ranging from 55 – 75, we wanted to maintain our health and happiness and usefulness in the communities to which we belonged.
We contemplated the notion of using our remaining days as two-fold: To LIVE WELL and to prepare to DIE WELL. That would be our LEGACY. An important one at that.
The notion of having “remaining days” at 74 has been a gift of real focus. I don’t find it discouraging. My priorities for joy, creativity, community, contribution, health, and not leaving a mess, are front and center. I’d like to invite others to move beyond any fears and share the fun.
It’s easy to think “Oh, I’ve got plenty of time. I don’t need to be 10 years too early tying up the loose ends of my life.” What keeps me on target is the clarity that being one day too late just simply won’t do.