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Tony Grist

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Dr Johnson Was Wrong [May. 11th, 2012|11:08 am]
Tony Grist
It happens with some people who have lived a long time that they just stop bothering. My granny Vi, for instance- a lively, worldly, fun-loving woman who- at around 75- plonked herself down in her armchair, with her ciggies, her gin and her Daily Express, and slowly, very slowly, faded away. We- her family- thought it was a pity. She wasn't ill or in pain, just tired. Just bored. Towards the end she turned bitter- and the unending sarcastic badinage she and my grandfather kept up made them difficult to be around.  

She has become my model of how not to do it. By "it" I mean dying. I wish she'd tried a little harder. Some people do. My other grandmother kept going- and interacting and being there for others- until she was all but transparent with old age. Then she dropped. But perhaps Granny Vi couldn't help herself. This is what worries me most: that death will take me by the scruff and hurry me along and I'll lose control of all my hard-won philosophy and go out in some abject fashion, whining and complaining and being a nuisance. That's what Dr Johnson was worried about too when he said, "It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives". He was getting his excuses in early. But that separation of death and life is a verbal quibble. Next door to a falsehood. Dying isn't something apart from life; it's a part of life, the last bit of living that we do. You can't section it off and pretend it doesn't matter. Living and dying are part of a continuum and- unless you die suddenly and unexpectedly- it's impossible to say where one ends and the other begins.  Our manner of dying will be the latest and most vivid memory we leave to our posterity. It matters enormously. 

Life is precious. We mustn't give up on it prematurely. We need to make the most of every last crumb. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dadi
2012-05-11 01:43 pm (UTC)
I have been meditating about these things quite a bit lately too, observing my father slip ever deeper in a state of "absence". It seems that every day he participates a bit less in life, cares a bit less about what goes on around him, lets the reins slip out of his hands a bit more. And he is not really old with his 76 years, there are many relatives and acquaintances of my parents who are 10 years older and even if not physically in a much better shape (though many are) much more "alive". I am trying to understand what is behind this, depression? Tiredness? Character? He has always been somebody who said "if I stop participating, somebody shoot me please", and now he is just.. slipping away slowly, until nobody won´t really even notice him being gone for good, probably. It hurts though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-05-11 04:02 pm (UTC)
My mother is over 90 and still driving her car, still going to the races.

I understand people giving up, but...
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2012-05-11 06:31 pm (UTC)
I'm so frightened my father is going down that road.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-05-13 08:57 am (UTC)
...And there's nothing anyone can do. My f-i-l simply stops listening when we call him on his attitude.

Just don't beat yourself up about it. It isn't your fault.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-05-12 08:05 am (UTC)
There's something a little repulsive about Heilbrun's suicide. It's the sort of thing a Vulcan would do.

I made a point of not seeing that Murdoch movie. I think her husband betrayed her by parading her before the public in that state. Now she's more famous for having had Alzheimers than for writing those wonderful books. It was an caddish thing to do.
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