This essay was originally written for the now-shuttered Los Angeles Moms Blog in the spring of 2009. After a little editing, I submitted it to TheSmartlyLA, and it was recently posted there – but it’s never appeared here until now.
It seems surprising that anyone would be surprised by the death of an elderly person – did I mention she was eighty-five? – and yet, her death did surprise everyone.
As her youngest son said at her funeral, his mother had slowed down a bit physically during the last few years, but not mentally. She was in close contact with her four children as well as her grandchildren and their children; she was still working in the family business she had continued after her husband’s death seven years before, and remained active in her temple and the community. Our friend spoke with her the day before she died and there was nothing unusual about that, but her family suspected that something was wrong the next morning when she wasn’t answering her phone – or checking her e-mail. She had died quietly in her sleep, in her own home, on her couch, in front of the television. It was the circumstances of her death that were surprising, not the fact.
One thing about the very old: since it seems like they’ve been around forever, we’re liable to start thinking they will be around forever. I suspect we do this because we’re not thinking – and sometimes that’s deliberate. Sometimes the not-thinking is wishful thinking, especially when it’s about our parents and grandparents. One reason it’s hard to think about them not being around forever is that once they’re gone, the generational wall has fallen and we’re one step closer to our own (eventual) mortality. Once they’re gone, we’ll be orphans.
Please read the rest of my reflection on “Orphans” at TheSmartlyLA – I promise it’s not that depressing!
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