For example, family friends of ours, people we have known for over twenty-five years now have an aging matriarch. She has been very much a fifth grandmother to me and my sister without all of the mucking about and complexity that divorce can bring into the picture. Last year at our annual Fourth of July celebration she and I had a very strange conversation where I found myself at a complete loss to respond to. After I had greeted her and sat to talk with her for a while, she simply blurted out that considering how all things were going right now, she was happy and contented and ready to die. This was not my first encounter with such personal expressions but it was the first time someone of 80+ years of life behind them had done so. And to me alone. It had the air of a confession, an awkwardness to the circumstance which caused a pause in thought and response. It was for all intents and purposes the complete and total acceptance of inevitability.
To which I had no response. I hugged her and told her that she is loved. What else could I have said? Tell her that she was wrong? That there were things to still live for? It was not as if she was wishing for death to visit. Merely saying that should it decide to come along there would not be any fight from her. Nothing, absolutely nothing in my life has ever prepared me for the shocking weight of her statement. Emotionally or intellectually. I am not sure that there was a correct way to respond to such. Mostly out of the fact that I have not, nor can I yet, accept the same inevitability for myself. But I am beginning to see it for others.
I had just turned twenty when we got together in St. Louis to celebrate my great-grandmother's 100th birthday. The nursing home that she was living in was not the worst place I had seen but on the whole it was unpleasant place to visit. Mostly these days I think I did not like to visit because it stank of that same inevitability. To that person who I was a decade a go, inevitability was complete anathema.
Only my great-grandmother knows (knew?) for certain how much of that day was recognizable. From my perspective at the time this must have been a confusing affair. I could not then and still can not imagine, given her state at the time, that there was much beyond the fact that people around her were having a good time which seeped through to the aged person sitting in that wheelchair. I felt a hot, fiery rage boil up from deep inside at the indignity of age. This had been a vital person at some point. The pictures brought to the event to help spur along some happier memories were proof of that. Yet as she held my arm in her fragile, cool hand I could not help but feel that she was looking at some other person from that same past. In that instant, I wanted nothing more than for the inevitable to occur. To give this person nothing more than the succor that I felt she deserved. It was a hard afternoon for me to get through with more questions than answers, more feelings than thought.
Inevitability is something we can come to accept but from what I have seen, it is a personal thing, an individual thing that has to occur.
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