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Emails to my Therapist

The Touchy Matter of Getting Old and Possibly Dying

Dear Therapist Nicholas, I seem to have reached The Age of Others Keeling Over. People keep getting old, falling ill, some actually dying. This sort of thing has happened before, but back then it was an aberration, cases of dying too young. Now I’m 68, healthy, and still blessed with an adolescent sense of  immortality that I hope to keep for a long time. But I’m seeing a trend around me.

Exit Signs

I saw this exit-watching process happen to my mother. She was 56 when my father died.  Three months later her mother died. And then friend after friend, and she had the misfortune of having an enormous number of friends. Once she went out of town for a week and when she came back she found on the kitchen table the obits of three friends, placed there by brother Franc with a vase of flowers.

Her father died. Her younger sister died. Children of friends started to go. I didn’t see how she could stand it.

But she’s still keeping on. I have a feeling, and a hope, that I have a lot of her longevity genes. If I’m right, I’ll likely have a similar experience of getting old.

Some years ago I began to notice in the paper the obits of the ruling generation I covered as a young newspaper reporter in Raleigh. That generation was twenty years older than me and and they had begun to make their exit.

This week I learned that the dear neighborhood pal of my earliest childhood died in January. That’s her on the left. She was two years younger than that sophisticate on the right. We were a couple of little fashionistas, as you can see.


This “exit” business comes as a shock, never mind that we all know it’s inevitable.

Years ago, a book review in The New York Times said my novel Sister India showed me to be “a writer with a keen sense of the precariousness of our lives….” That surprised me. It’s true that the story is set in the Hindu holy city on the Ganges believed to be the most auspicious place to die. However the story’s about a guest house full of travelers caught in a city-wide curfew with the troubled inn-keeper and the man she secretly loves. I didn’t think I was writing about precariousness of life or that I had any such sense. I was sure I didn’t. Now I’m starting to acquire it.

The awareness does add a sharper edge to appreciation for being alive, for my loved ones who are living. And so far, I’ve been lucky. Several of my people have survived recent close calls. Both those situations are likely at some point to change.

The Hot Roller Cure

Unless, of course, technology comes to the rescue as I foolishly trust it will.  The arrival of hot rollers in my life back in the early 60s first gave me this confidence. I’d begun in my very early teens to have serious concern about whether I’d ever be able to get married, since it was absolutely necessary for me to sleep in pink foam rubber curlers. Surely I couldn’t let anyone outside my family of origin see me with my hair rolled up. Then came hot rollers, which did the job in a few minutes in the morning. The problem was solved.

In fact, technology has already saved the day for me lately. What happened to my mother almost forty years ago — losing her husband and mother three months apart — would have happened to me this past winter, but for good luck and good medical treatment. Bob had his very close call in December, Mom in late February. Both got good treatment and survived. These outcomes are both sobering and wildly encouraging.

At some point, though, I’m likely to discover — in a gut way — that they and I and quite a few others are going to die.

Closer to Life?

Some years ago, I was discussing with my psychologist husband the situation of a man who was losing his wife to cancer. Going through that, Bob said, can bring a person “closer to life.” I saved that perplexing phrase for later consideration, no doubt knowing that at some point it could come in handy.

It’s paradoxical of course to think that facing death brings you closer to life. And what do the words really mean: how can you get closer to life than being alive?

The Deep Stuff

What makes that greater closeness, I now discover, is coming to know more intimately the most profound experiences of being physically and emotionally alive. I suspect anyone who has a child gets an early dose of that immediacy. But in the course of daily routines — work, errands, getting things done — it’s probably pretty easy for anyone to lose awareness of the deep stuff. The raw emotion, the pulsing messy heated bodily life.  The precariousness.

Our forgetting and the shocks of re-connection are both no doubt necessary; who could stand a constant awareness or a permanent detachment?

More on all this later, obviously. Thanks for listening.


Read A Related Post: Losing Mom



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  • Sandy Joyce
    March 25, 2017 at 10:56 am Reply

    I too am coming to a different awareness of the aging of the body. I call it getting more mileage because it is still hard to accept getting old. How do we not see ourselves as “getting old”? I too am 68, about to be 69 tomorrow, and it all hit me last year as I prepared to attend my 50th class reunion. I thought, in two years we will all be 70!!! How did that happen? I used to say that I would not consider myself a senior until at least 70, and here it comes in a year! Perhaps the problem lies in being of the 60’s generation, as in 1960’s, and how could we ever grow old if always saw ourselves as Flower Children? But then perhaps the realization of being older, or old, happens to every generation at some point. It is difficult to see one’s own self as aging. Actually when we attune to our spirit more closely, we do not feel old as spirit does not age. When we are healthy, we fail to see ourselves as vulnerable to the conditions of the aging body. So when issues arise in our own bodies, it feels like a betrayal; it is not supposed to happen to me because I have done everything right in taking care of my body. Fairness does not play a part. One realizes that bodies do change over time and acceptance is the only way to find peace at least for me. It is not easy. And yes, losing people around us brings the awareness of the vulnerability and preciousness of the life force in each human into keen focus. Thank you for sharing your insights and allowing commentary.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 1:56 pm Reply

      I greatly appreciate the commentary, Sandy. I went to my 50th class reunion last fall. A staggering number of years, but it was wonderful fun. Oddly, it appeared that people of a lot of different ages were there. The process had hit us all somewhat differently; people were dealing with it pretty differently too. One sobering fact for us: 130+ out of about 800 graduates had died. Seemed like a lot. I think of old as starting at 80, but then I know some 80-somethings who are pretty frisky and some late-70-somethings who are very far from slowing down. And you’re so right about fairness not being part of the deal. Some of my ailing pals are the ones who, unlike me, have been eating kale the whole way.

    • Lynne Perg
      July 7, 2020 at 3:25 pm Reply

      I faced my mortality when my doctor said that dreaded word “cancer”. Longevity runs in my family. Ages of 90 + are not unusual. I was in my sixties. I immediately chose to fight. Today I’m cancer free and 70+. Today I know tomorrow is never guaranteed. Today I count my blessings and let go of negativity. Today I’m a glass half full person. This is a fulfilling way for me to live. It’s important to celebrate life. There’s only one me, and I’m special. Love and blessings to all of you out there who are struggling.

      • Peggy Payne
        July 7, 2020 at 7:08 pm Reply

        I hope you make it to 100+, Lynne.

      • Maggie Beckman
        March 30, 2022 at 2:02 am Reply

        Thank you for your words. They hit home for me. I just turned 70 this past year and it’s been hard to comprehend that the aging process applies to me too. Your words make me feel less isolated and more part of our generation.

        • Peggy Payne
          March 30, 2022 at 2:01 pm Reply

          There are lots of us, Maggie. You are in good company. I felt so much better about it all after a hilarious conversation with friends my age about forgetfulness. Some of the things we’ve forgotten!

      • SUSAN BIEN
        July 9, 2023 at 3:12 pm Reply

        Thank you for this. Good luck to you n the future of life. All the best.

        • Peggy Payne
          July 9, 2023 at 3:38 pm Reply

          Thank you, Susan and Lynne!

    • Marian Angele
      December 11, 2020 at 12:21 pm Reply

      Wonder if your story of people stranded in India inspired the movie about the Best Guest House.. Love this article.. I tell myself at 77 to keep trying to walk the 18 year old walk and not give in. Losing friends and family is so hard.

      • Peggy Payne
        December 12, 2020 at 1:38 am Reply

        I’m going to start walking the 18-year-old walk too, Marian. What a great idea! It’s a wonderful way to think of staying fully alive. Although being 18 also had its challenges, which it might be good for me to remember occasionally. I agree that the truly hard part is the disappearing faces.

        • Susan
          April 22, 2023 at 7:55 pm Reply

          This is all so interesting to read cause it hits home in so many ways. I’m 67 and going to have a new adventure in my life. I lived with a man for almost 20yrs n it was never perfect ( just saying read between the lines). He got lung cancer n died within 6 months. It was too late to make changes so I would be a little better off so here I am.!! I’m moving out of the apartment in NYC n decided to go south n have some new adventures. Thankfully I’m healthy n basically a happy fun loving person. I will survive n life will get better I know cause it’s all attitude.!! Hey there is more time behind me than in front of me so I might as well make it fabulous!! Btw I don’t feel 67yrs actually I’m shocked where did the time go?? Baby boomer wow wow n wow. What can I say.?
          Just gotta keep it moving

          • Peggy Payne
            April 28, 2023 at 8:36 pm Reply

            Your view of where you are now does prove to me that you have lots of good life ahead, Susan. You’re handling the loss and changes so well. I hope you find the perfect place further south. I do wish good things for you.

    • Anonymous
      February 3, 2023 at 4:43 am Reply

      Wait till you reach 80 years old..
      In my 60’s and 70’s I still felt ageless… But 80 was a wake up call .
      I suddenly felt old…. And it’s scary,
      and it is in my thoughts always..

      • Peggy Payne
        February 3, 2023 at 2:45 pm Reply

        I’m curious how you felt different, Anon. Was it because of a particular physical change?

  • George Watkins
    March 25, 2017 at 11:25 am Reply

    Beautifully expressed. Good therapy to read a blog of this import amid the shallow political chaos. Thanks for reminding us to be mindful – as best we can. Another way to say it: Don’t die, before you die.

    Thanks for posting Peggy. Be well. Keep writing and bringing the light!

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm Reply

      Oh, yes, the political chaos; now I remember. But we had a good day yesterday, George. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I’m glad to “see” you.

      • Mary Kugler
        May 11, 2023 at 2:04 am Reply

        I love reading what all of these women have said about aging
        I am turning 80 in June and it is a bit scary
        I am very healthy and active but both my mother and my grandmother died at 80. My mother had Alzheimer’s for 15 years and my grandmother had a severe stroke.
        I don’t dwell on it but I realize that every day is a blessing at this age.

        • Peggy Payne
          May 11, 2023 at 2:43 pm Reply

          Mary, I think you’re going to establish a new family tradition– of living to 100 and more.

  • March 25, 2017 at 11:47 am Reply

    This and your last few posts have been beautiful, sensitive and eloquent. Thank you for expressing what so many of us feel but either can’t or don’t feel comfortable putting into words for all to see.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm Reply

      You’re doing pretty well at blogging things into words over at your new re-shaping site, Jim. Thanks.

  • March 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Another real and thought provoking post on a topic many of us would, like you, rather put off thinking about. Thanks, Peggy, for this writing.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm Reply

      Thank you, Susan. I seem to have an ongoing theme lately. But it does evolve.

      • Anonymous
        March 24, 2023 at 9:44 am Reply

        My husband left this world in a hospital bed at home next to me. I woke up at 5 AM and reached over to him – he was still warm, but when I looked at his body, I knew he was gone. What a wonderful gift he gave me – I always believed there was an afterlife, now I know it’s true.

        • Peggy Payne
          March 24, 2023 at 7:44 pm Reply

          A wonderful gift indeed, Anon, for you to wake and be there at that moment!

  • John Rosenthal
    March 25, 2017 at 3:42 pm Reply

    Reading your blog, I couldn’t help but remember this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I used to hear that one grew out of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and perhaps that’s true. But thankfully, I’m growing in to her again:

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,–but the best is lost.
    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, —
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm Reply

      Brava, Edna! Bravo, John! I love this poem. I never considered outgrowing Millay. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    • December 11, 2017 at 4:16 am Reply

      Nor am I Fine poem, John, Thanks,

    • Christy S.
      March 23, 2018 at 5:08 pm Reply

      John, please be careful when you reprint entire paragraphs, poems or other works. You can safely quote a couple lines of any poem (including St. Vincent Millay’s poem here) but not the entire work. It violates copyright laws.Here is the link that directly addresses the poem you’ve reproduced above:

      • Judy
        June 2, 2019 at 12:06 am Reply

        Any poetry published in 1923 or later is in the public domain.

        • Peggy Payne
          June 3, 2019 at 9:59 pm Reply

          You meant to say “before” rather than “later,” Judy?

    • Camilla Cover
      September 11, 2022 at 8:13 pm Reply

      Another month and I will be 79. I think that means I may have to consider myself elderly. I prefer being one of the elder ones I identify with all these writings. Genetically I could live to be 90 or so. But I am aware I could be gone tomorrow. Peace to all.

      • Peggy Payne
        September 12, 2022 at 4:19 pm Reply

        I think we get to choose our own description, Camilla. “Elder one” is nice. And I usually don’t like such tags. I hope your long-life genes win out. Peace to you.

  • March 25, 2017 at 5:12 pm Reply

    Hi Peggy, This resonated with me in a number of ways. I turned 69 on March 10. March 11th was my mother’s funeral. She was 101 and had gone through losing almost everyone in her generation and many who were friends that were 20 years younger than her. She did not suffer sadness at theses losses during the last 6 or 7 years of her life because she was no longer able to remember the people who had died. That loss of memory is another kind of dying – painful to watch in another, yet not painful, I think, to the one experiencing it. Strangely, I have (an am ) losing way more friends and contemporaries in my 60s than my parents did. I have lost a life long best friend, three college boyfriends, a close college friend, a college roommate, my high school sweetheart, about a dozen members of my high school graduating glass of 100, (i just had my 50th reunion last June) and 6 friends from the neighborhood I lived in for 28 years while raising my kids. It seems like many of my contemporaries our dying young….mostly from cancer. Of course, each of these deaths brings thoughts of the precariousness of life. The deaths that have shaken me most profoundly, though, are the deaths of children of my friends – losses that seem so unbearable, so unfair, and out of the natural order of things. Of course, really, how do we even know what the natural order of things is on a grand scale? I alternate between the ” increased appreciation of life” and the “worry that anyone can die at any time” states. But, I have another feeling too that at my good moments (and thankfully I have many very good moments) supercedes the others. Death does seem to me like the next step of life, the beginning of another form of existence. I don’t mean heaven, or even reincarnation, just becoming part of the universe in some way…a different way than we are now. For me, that is not scary at all. What is scary is being the one left behind as my mom was.
    Aging…that is a whole different thing. I spent the first 50 years always being told (even as a small child) that I looked young for my age. Even in my 50s,, people thought I looked much younger. Because of this I, somewhat smugly, thought I would deal with physical signs of aging gracefully. Haha….not so. I hate that now I look my age. (i think being a single parent to 5 teenage boys during my 50s accelerated the pace of my aging so that now I am all “caught up.” ) i also find arthritis , lack of flexibility and other minor changes annoying. I am not aging gracefully. I am aging reluctantly and wondering what in the world I will be like if I live to be 100 like my mom. But, mentally, I feel young and I am still doing new things and enjoying them. I go to open mics to share my poetry or my latest essay; I do Moth-type storytelling and recently I auditioned for a part in a web series and got it. So I am not stagnant, and not even slowing down, but still I am not a fan of aging….
    Sort of a ramble, but thought I would respond to your FB post asking for comments. Obviously the topics you blogged about have been on my mind, so your blog prompted some good self-reflection for me. Thanks, Peggy.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm Reply

      You sure aren’t stagnant, Jan. Sounds like you’re doing very well. And five teenage boys! That alone seems quite a lot for one life.

      I’m sorry for your many losses — and I imagine losing a mother you’ve had for 69 years might be in some ways harder than at a time when you might have expected it to happen. I know a man who lost his mother in his mid-70s and had a really hard time dealing with it. My mother commented, “He’s most too old to lose his mother.” Which I begin to understand.

    • September 15, 2022 at 5:33 am Reply

      JKG, You might consider stopping counting deaths of those close to you – why focus on losses when you can focus on those you love, at whatever level of existence? To lose a loved one we have to have had a loved one – easier said than done, but it gets easier and easier – practice makes progress. Good fortune with this, bob

    • Susan Seacrest
      December 18, 2022 at 2:11 am Reply

      Great comments by all! Was on the committee that organized our 50th class reunion in 2021! Our of it came new connection, reconnections and a startled recognition that 20% of our classmates were dead. We had created a beautiful memory table with flowers candles and their senior photos. What a short hop life is…now I savor each moment with heartfelt gratitude.

      • Peggy Payne
        January 10, 2023 at 9:59 pm Reply

        “A short hop” is a great description, Susan. I too was shocked by the number already dead at one of my class reunions. I went to a big high school and 134 of the class were gone at that point. I’d like to be better at savoring the moment with gratitude. It’s easy to forget to do that.

  • Bob Braxton
    March 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm Reply

    I am 72. Thirteen days ago, my sister 5 1/2 years younger. Before that, male cousin (paternal) son of 3rd born, before that male cousin son of 4th born; also, maternal female, daughter of second-born (of 9). All younter relatives.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 25, 2017 at 7:59 pm Reply

      Thirteen days ago! Painfully recent. I’m sorry, Bob.

  • Amey Miller
    March 26, 2017 at 12:12 am Reply

    Wow! Great to return home ,after a day of pressing my forehead against my art , to this robust spool of responses to your post. And, surprise, it is on a subject much on my mind! It seems like on others minds as well. Us Boomers are Listening Up! My 50th high school reunions (there were two, longish story) were two years ago. There’s a self-selecting aspect —- people come who feel up to the challenge. So there was a lot of reason to celebrate. But, sigh, there is the other part of the story, and I feel that is in some ways really helpful. The part that, as John’s poem points out, is not enthusiastic about what we are looking at, for ourselves and others. But could our sadness and struggle be an aid here? “The Art of Losing” —- famous poem by Elizabeth Bishop —- Closer to life, as Bob said a while back?
    My father died at 45, my mother at 64. I don’t have a super model of living long, and don’t, with various conditions and life experiences I’ve had, expect to be up there in my nineties. I could be proven wrong. But I am extremely interested in how to navigate this period of life, where we, as one response said, have kind of one foot in the next world. What do we have to offer, what do we have to experience, be part of, with a very new awareness? Thanks for being on the path alongside a number of us, your created posse, Peggy —— Blessings to all, Amey

    • Peggy Payne
      March 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm Reply

      Thanks for your generous blessings, Amey. And I love the image of your pressing your forehead against your art. You lost parents early and I hope you do make it to 90+!

  • Emily Turner Knight
    March 28, 2017 at 1:22 am Reply

    Your commentaries are beautifully written and emotionally powerful. All of us at this age question these mysteries. You are able to put those thoughts into words

    • Peggy Payne
      March 28, 2017 at 2:24 am Reply

      Thank you, Emily. You are kind.

    March 29, 2017 at 3:47 pm Reply

    I appreciate your natural eloquence, Peggy. I am 54 and several months ago, my best friend and mentor died (86). A true gift to remember her and all she touched and taught in so many ways. Giving never ends, as receiving never ends. Just how we give and how we receive is determined by where we are in our own love of life. (Some may call this maturity!) A few weeks ago I went to the funeral of a beautiful 28-year-old woman, family friend, and the loss is greatest and ongoing for those closest to her–the beauty was shown at her “viewing,” when people of all ages, different races, and from different places, some who had known Lauren all of her life and some only for a few months, told how Lauren had added to their lives in such a positive way. Already, she knew how to love. What a legacy. Thanks for your posts. Keep them coming!

    • Peggy Payne
      March 29, 2017 at 5:03 pm Reply

      Thanks for your stories, Margaret. Sorry about your two losses, though you’re surely dealing with them in a positive way.

  • […] reaction to my recent post, The Touchy Subject of Getting Old and Possibly Dying, comes from Dan Wakefield who turns 85 next month. Dan is a dear friend and the author of […]

  • […] a lot of focus on death recently. Once Mom and Bob were clearly going to make it– and another loved one gave us a scare and […]

  • […] Recent brushes with death have been on my mind — and now, by chance, a story of mine has just been published that takes […]

  • Bonnie Tincher
    June 4, 2017 at 2:50 am Reply

    I enjoyed your honest and insightful blog. I am a nurse in Labor and Delivery and help families deal with miscarriages, stillbirths and Neonatal deaths. It puts perspective on being grateful for life at every age and stage. These parents are instantly thrown into a life situation that most of them never expected and are not prepared to deal with. They are shocked at the precariousness of life and the finality of the events. I am 60 and have been a nurse 40 years. I have no idea how my death will come, but know there will be people around my family to help them. I have no idea how many deaths of family and friends I will experience before my own. I have already lost grandparents, my mom and dad and oldest brother. I do know that I am blessed to have served so many families. I am blessed to have the family and friends that I have. I embrace the now. The end could come suddenly or eventually, but in the meanwhile I have lived as a daughter, sister, aunt, mother, wife, friend and colleague. I have had purpose, happiness, joy and accomplishment. So I will continue until the end of this physical life and enter whatever is beyond.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 5, 2017 at 2:37 am Reply

      You have a wonderful perspective, Bonnie, and I think likely you’re an excellent nurse, family member and friend.

  • Kenju
    June 8, 2017 at 3:34 am Reply

    When my father was in his late 80’s, he said to me: “every time I read the obits, there is someone I know. If my friends don’t quit dying, there will be no one left to attend my funeral “. He died at 92, and over 500 people came to his service. I am 76 and 8 months now and I hope to make it to my 90’s. – as long as I am able to think and move about on my own.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2017 at 12:48 pm Reply

      And I suspect you’ll have over 500 too, Kenju, and why stop at 90-something!

    • Nancy
      May 25, 2020 at 12:27 am Reply

      Moments ago I ran into you on Facebook. You seem to know each other, but in a way we all know each other as we look death in the eye! Yet what emerges is the fact all we have is TODAY! Behooves us to make the most of today and cherish it!

      • Peggy Payne
        May 27, 2020 at 3:12 pm Reply

        Wishing you a fine day, mutual friend of Judy!

    • Susan
      April 22, 2023 at 7:01 pm Reply

      This is all so interesting to read cause it hits home in so many ways. I’m 67 and going to have a new adventure in my life. I lived with a man for almost 20yrs n it was never perfect ( just saying read between the lines). He got lung cancer n died within 6 months. It was too late to make changes so I would be a little better off so here I am.!! I’m moving out of the apartment in NYC n decided to go south n have some new adventures. Thankfully I’m healthy n basically a happy fun loving person. I will survive n life will get better I know cause it’s all attitude.!! Hey there is more time behind me than in front of me so I might as well make it fabulous!! Btw I don’t feel 67yrs actually I’m shocked where did the time go?? Baby boomer wow wow n wow. What can I say.?
      Just gotta keep it moving

  • Cheryl Matthews
    June 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm Reply

    I just turned 70 last month… and truthfully, am wondering HOW and WHEN did this happen! I must have been sleeping half of the time. At the age of 65 I decided to retire, and Pursue Things That I Always Wanted To Do. I thought, if I don’t start doing them NOW…then WHEN am I going to do them. The word WORTHY came to me. I only want to do that which is worthy of my time. If it means taking a college course I’m interested in, seeing my children and grandchildren more, visiting a dear friend in France, or making a soufflé… it must be worthy and time well spent. Dressing sexy for my husband, or sharing martinis with my girlfriends, or even showing up regularly at the gym… WE ARE NOT DEAD YET. Oh, and this Sunday.. I think I will audition for a show girl at the Senior Follies!

    • Peggy Payne
      June 16, 2017 at 1:35 am Reply

      I can tell you’ll make a terrific show girl, Cheryl. Sounds to me like you’ve been making some truly worthy decisions. I’m going to start using that word as a touchstone myself. Thank you!

    • Susan
      April 22, 2023 at 7:08 pm Reply

      Wow u sound fabulous n keep it moving girl!! I’m right behind you n I’m gonna do it my way now at 67 n single. That will change cause I have lots of love n life to give n get!! Loved reading what u wrote. Still need to always look our best no matter how old. We r definitely still living!!

  • August 31, 2017 at 5:27 pm Reply

    In 2014 while we were on sabbatical in Honolulu came the call that my husband’s younger brother (10 years younger) had been found dead of a heart attack by his wife. He was a marathon runner, the guy who could limit himself to one teaspoon of ice cream. It was shocking and a profound wake up call about mortality. Both my husband’s parents were dead by age 70. We both keenly feel that now, in our early 60’s, the rest of our lives is gravy. Our kids are launched. We’ve fulfilled our biological purpose. It’s carpe diem time. Should we spend the money to go to the Galapagos. Definitely.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 1, 2017 at 1:26 am Reply

      Yes, the Galapagos, Suzanne Fluhr! Yes, ice cream!

  • Courage
    September 24, 2017 at 2:00 am Reply

    Thank you, Peggy, for the post … and to everyone who’s responded. So much food for thought…and feeling.

    I have to admit that the phrase in your title, “…and possibly dying”, made me laugh. Possibly?

    Our human power of denial is astonishing, particularly in culturally juvenile, caucasian North America. The bubble is being pierced, though; the rest of humanity and its sufferings are ever more present to us now. I think, too, that our generation (I’m in my late 50s) is beginning to insist on a conversation about death that is more intimate and urgent … more real. At the same time … you write of how necessary it is, sometimes, to forget. To detach. (To deny!) Oh, it is. We can’t be riven with grief all the time; we’d go mad. (I often wonder if the condition we call “depression” might be, at least in part, a lifeload of grief that has gone untended, unfelt, disallowed expression — I ponder this as a person who was diagnosed with anaclitic depression in infancy and who has grappled with that particular void all my life.)

    I’ve lost so many loved ones that were I to try to count them right now without consulting my little book of dates, I’d be flummoxed. This year alone, six. I recently received a cancer diagnosis — it was my great good fortune that the cancer was a stage 0 melanoma, local and superficial. I see it as a reprieve. There was a night between biopsy and diagnosis when I was choking on terror. I grabbed my journal and howled through the pen. I’m still staggered. Death has not only brushed my sleeve, but has left a scar.

    Every breath is a gift. Every moment is an opportunity. Every love will be lost, somehow, somewhen. Loss and love … two sides of fate’s coin. I think constantly on Stephen Levine’s words (in his book, Unattended Sorrow): “We are learning to live with the consequence of love.”

    There’s a saying: “Live!” Death says; “I am coming.” I”ve amended it to add: “Live!” Life says; “I am here.”

    • Peggy Payne
      September 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm Reply

      An eloquent essay in itself! I love your I-am-here ending. And I also admire Stephen Levine. Had to google anaclitic depression; sorry you have it to deal with. But good news about the melanoma. Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment.

  • October 29, 2017 at 10:11 pm Reply

    Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. Since my open-heart surgery last December, I’m even more in favor of having fun and living as fully as I can in the present moment. And Death, my death, is my ally – whenever I’m strongly uncertain, confused or frightened I literally look over my left shoulder, see my death, and that has quickly cleared my mind. Live long and prosper, Peggy. bob

    • Peggy Payne
      October 30, 2017 at 4:06 pm Reply

      We’re both working on that live-long-and-prosper thing, Bob! I trust you will.

  • October 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm Reply

    As for awaiting moderatio, I’d say I certainly need it.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 30, 2017 at 4:07 pm Reply


  • December 11, 2017 at 4:22 am Reply

    Who Dies – Steven Levine is my go-to primer on death,

    • Peggy Payne
      December 11, 2017 at 6:19 pm Reply

      Excellent book. I agree, Bob. Well, maybe it’s my second favorite. I love Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death.

  • […] Nicholas, A commenter on a post of mine about dealing with death, The Age of Others Keeling Over, wrote “Baby Boomer navel-gazing always astounds […]

  • geri pellegrino
    April 7, 2018 at 7:06 pm Reply

    glad I’m not alone…

    • Peggy Payne
      April 7, 2018 at 11:52 pm Reply

      We’re all in it together, Geri!

  • […] written about this here before and no doubt will again. Seemingly unprovoked sadness has its deep […]

  • Donna McDonough
    July 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm Reply

    I’m am 74,and surprised to be getting old..death is all around me..too much husband us in remission after a long battle with cancer,but I knowxremission is temporary..we had 6 children ..5 sons one daughter ..she was the youngest..we list her first ,car accident.hit a deer then a tree..our oldest son next to brain cancer a slow death..then another son to car accident and this last Christmas season another unexpected son died in bed watching tv with his wife heart mom lived to be 92 and my dad 85..don’t know if I wAnt to lose anymore lived ones..they say the price if love is grief. Its true

    • Peggy Payne
      July 15, 2018 at 4:57 pm Reply

      Far too many losses, Donna. More than anyone should have to endure. I am so sorry!

  • Robert J Braxton
    March 15, 2019 at 7:51 pm Reply

    Daddy did (1988), Mama did (2015) …

    • Peggy Payne
      March 15, 2019 at 7:56 pm Reply

      Your mama kept on a long time, Bob!

  • Nancy
    August 16, 2019 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Although I oversee two rural cemeteries and deal with families, death and burials regularly, it wasn’t until My husband of 40 years left, that aging really kicked in for me.
    Body parts started to act up from injuries in my youth, new aches and pains, my turn at our family’s inherited hearing lost, breast cancer, and just needing to hire men to do things I used to do alone or with my husband’s help, all brought my “age” home.
    My father was killed at 28. My mother died at 52 ( breast cancer). My goal was to live beyond each of them and I have at 70. My first grandchild was born this year and I have told God I need to live long enough to pour into his life.
    After life, death is the only given. Why do we not expect it?

    • Peggy Payne
      August 18, 2019 at 1:21 am Reply

      I hope your grandchild gets to enjoy many years of your company, Nancy!

  • louise gray
    November 2, 2019 at 2:11 am Reply

    Love to ponder this. We all go out the same door, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Did some volunteering with patient care at. local hospice so that I could come face to face with Death. The great sleeping prophet Edgar Cayce said that death was like going from one room into another. Nothing to it. It is good to acknowledge death while living because it gives meaning to life.

    • Peggy Payne
      November 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm Reply

      I hope Edgar Cayce is right, Louise Gray. Your idea of working with hospice is so good. I do have a friend who did that long after seeing her fiancé killed. It helped.

  • MaryLena Anderegg
    April 11, 2020 at 11:41 pm Reply

    It has been almost fifty years ago since I lost the fear of my own death. To make a long story short, I lived alone in an apartment upstairs over my godmother. Everyone I knew in the town where I lived thought I was out of town for the long weekend. I had cancelled the trip with the people I had planned to visit because I felt an asthma attack coming on.
    When it hit, it hit hard and fast and I fainted on my kitchen floor. When I awakened struggling for breath, I realized my first level of medication was on the kitchen co under above me and I was too weak to stand up. My telephone was on the wall but the dial was on the wall and not on the headset.
    Over the next three days I went in and out of consciousness. At some point I accepted the fact that I could die lying there and no one would realize until Tuesday. I thought to myself,
    “I am not alone. I can’t be in better company.”
    Another time I remember thinking I didn’t want to die of dehydration so I crawled into the bathroom and wedged myself between the toilet and the bathtub. Later, I reached up to turn the water on and laughed. My godmother had apologized when she rented the apartment because the plumber had connected the hot and cold faucets backward. Because of his error, I had cold water to sip from my hand.
    Mid mornings Monday, I woke weak and shaken but able to get to my phone. My godmother took me to the ER but I’ve not since been afraid to die.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm Reply

      Thank you for this remarkable story, MaryLena Anderegg. I’ll remember your thought: “I am not alone. I can’t be in better company.” I’m glad you came through it and that the experience had the effect that it did. It’s a fine gift to pass on as you’re doing here. Three days!!

  • MaryLena Anderegg
    May 27, 2020 at 7:38 pm Reply

    I am one of those persons who had the opportunity to retire early…too early really.
    So, my husband and I moved to the beach. For six years, we volunteered as first responders with the Salvation Army. Then, for three years, we drove from NC to MS four or five times a year to help rebuild people’s homes which were destroyed by Katrina. We stayed one to three weeks each time. When at home, we volunteered with several other groups: church, a private school, a soup kitchen, and helping to build a local culture and heritage museum. My husband sang in the church choir and a local chorale. We traveled around the U.S. and Japan to visit family: parents, children and grandchildren. We traveled to Europe to sing with a local choral group and to visit friends.
    It has been so much more than we ever dreamed it could be. We’re slowing down now but it’s been a great ride. We’ve been blessed with opportunities we never dreamed we would ever have. What we have learned is this: Live every day as though it is your last. Take joy in every experience even those with disappointments. They may just be a redirection.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 29, 2020 at 3:22 pm Reply

      And you’ve spent this time so well, MaryLena Anderegg! I’m glad you’re both still taking joy in every day. Thanks for your reminder about redirection; that’s often hard to keep in mind.

  • Elaine F. Hawkins
    October 20, 2020 at 8:49 pm Reply

    This world is a temporary place. ALL of us will spend Eternity in one of two places — the choice is up to us. Not about how “good” or “nice” we are, but whether we trust God, who offers forgiveness of our sin through the death and RESURRECTION of His Son, Jesus Christ who paid the price that we owe because we are NOT holy. God is Holy — we can’t be with Him unless we are forgiven. God invites us into His Heaven if we belong to Him. I don’t see many posts acknowledging this FACT. This is what gives Christians joy in spite of suffering, sickness, and death.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm Reply

      I envy you your certainty, Elaine. Thanks for this.

  • Jo Nix
    December 5, 2020 at 9:17 pm Reply

    Amen to Elaine Hawkins. All of these posts and comments spoke to me. I, especially, admire your writing, Peggy. I believe that you love reading as much as I do. Please find a Bible and read the books of John and Romans. I am praying that you will find your answers. Your assurance.
    Yesterday was 20 years since my husband died. Now, I am 82, andfeeling the frustrations of the young mind and aging body.
    Looking forward to more of your comments,
    Jo Nix

    • Peggy Payne
      December 6, 2020 at 6:39 pm Reply

      Thanks so much for this, Jo Nix. I applaud the workings of your young mind and will sure have a look at John and Romans.

  • Ruby Boone
    December 6, 2020 at 10:08 am Reply

    I have not read all of this but what I have read I liked. I have thought that it would be so nice tto talk with others about death. I am 83 and there are so many things that I experience and wonder if others do. I worked unti around 70, I was running up and down steps, had a business on the side and all of a sudden I was so tired. I went to my Doctor and he said it was probably depression, it wasn’t, my doctor called me and said I needed a blood transfusion right away. I have Iron Infusions once a month, I also have other problems too. God says there is an appointed time to be born and a appointed time to die., so that is what I believe. Only God knows.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 6, 2020 at 6:42 pm Reply

      I’m glad you were able to get the iron, Ruby. I do think talking about what’s happening and what’s ahead helps a lot. I found that to be true when I had my first concerns about aging at 38. That age sounds ridiculously young now, but it was a real and appropriate awareness then.

  • Carole
    January 1, 2021 at 5:45 pm Reply

    Well I’ve read every post,an they all sound like you have had blessed lives, an you all sound grateful, and I pray you all continue with your lives, an not let the enviable slow you down. God Bless each an every one of you.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 2, 2021 at 12:33 am Reply

      On behalf of all of us, thank you, Carole. And the same to you.

  • Barbara Macdonald
    January 13, 2021 at 6:34 pm Reply

    Thank you for this reminder. In the past few years I have been meditating and have found it most helpful in culling anxiety and fear. I have had moments in which I have found full acceptance of just being and also of not being. During this pandemic I am fortunate to be able to be retired and not need to be anywhere but safe. Counting s daily and recording them also helps to quell any fears both of death and loss.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 13, 2021 at 8:43 pm Reply

      I too meditate and find it helpful, Barbara, though I can’t say I’ve found myself very accepting of just being or not being. What is it that you’re counting daily and recording that helps you?

  • Nancy M
    May 13, 2021 at 8:44 pm Reply

    Last week my husband was doing his weekly men’s group walk along the ocean…one of his friends collapsed and died, in spite of paramedics being there quickly. We have been very aware lately that one of us will die and leave the other. It brings such poignancy to our days, and appreciation for what we have.This, coupled with the very irrational prayer of “ not yet, please, not yet”. So we booked two big trips, eyes on the future, knowing that nothing is guaranteed.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 14, 2021 at 5:53 pm Reply

      You inspire me to book two big trips, Nancy. I’m so sorry about your husband’s friend and for the shock of that for your husband. It’s hard to take in that that can happen and very hard to forget for one who has seen it. Wishing you both health and long life.

  • Kathleen Nekson
    May 15, 2021 at 6:51 pm Reply

    Much to consider when born with immune deficiency and family affected by serious health challenges. People take good health & physical strength for granted ~ they are so fortunate! Enjoy it, and may it continue as long as possible!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 17, 2021 at 4:25 pm Reply

      Thank you for this reminder, Kathleen. It’s easy to take for granted what’s going right, while focusing on problems.

  • Linda Flesher
    May 22, 2021 at 5:39 am Reply

    Enjoyed reading your blog, Peggy, which randomly popped up on my Facebook feed. Although I do not have a firm belief about what will happen after death, I think that in some way our spirit continues, and I am at peace with that vagueness, having rounded the corner into official oldness. (I have Payne ancestry, incidentally, as does President Obama).

    • Peggy Payne
      May 25, 2021 at 4:34 pm Reply

      Well, I’m glad to know you’re a “cousin,” Linda. Also to know that Obama is. I had no idea. I do know that Dolley Payne Madison is a relative. I thought that was my only claim to fame.

      And I’m mostly at peace with “that vagueness,” but ever curious to know more.

  • Eileen Lederman
    June 19, 2021 at 11:33 pm Reply

    My hubby died two years ago and part of my heart died too.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 20, 2021 at 2:27 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry, Eileen!

  • March 22, 2022 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Folks sure responded to this post, and it’s still a fine post in 2022 – keep on writin’ and livin’, preferably forever. Lbob

    • Peggy Payne
      March 22, 2022 at 6:23 pm Reply

      I’m working on doing both of those, Bob. Thanks. L,P

  • Maggie
    May 1, 2022 at 4:31 pm Reply

    Thank you

    • Peggy Payne
      May 1, 2022 at 4:34 pm Reply

      Thank you, Maggie!

  • Mary
    May 28, 2022 at 1:01 pm Reply

    What a marvelous post and comments. At 75, widowed, no children and my closest friends older than myself, I can sure relate. I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately and getting all my affairs in order, but the thing that bothers me most is not knowing the future of the planet, current events and if humanity will straighten itself out in time. It’s so unsettled currently. I would like to think there is some continuation, but not in a religious sense.

    Also I’m related to Obama, as well. Something like 6th cousin twice removed..I’ll have to see if I can follow it back to Dolly Payne Madison.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2022 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Thanks, Mary. We’re in the midst of getting affairs in order as well. It’s sure complicated. The future of the planet, especially. I’m counting on some continuation, as you say, though I have some fear it may not be so. Well, we’ll find out. I’d be proud to be Obama’s 6th cousin. Let me know if you connect with Dolley, making us cousins too.

  • Mary Monzo
    July 14, 2022 at 2:52 am Reply

    I am not afraid of death at all. But my heart is broken since the death of my son in January of this year. He was so very precious but such a rascal at times. He put me through many trials, mostly with his drug use. But I think of him all day long. He will always be in my heart. Thank you .Gid for my son.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 14, 2022 at 3:35 am Reply

      I’m so sorry you’ve had such a loss, Mary. And I admire your gratitude.

  • Kellie
    November 29, 2022 at 4:29 pm Reply

    I love this article so very much. I’ve been looking for words to describe the gift I received while helping my 65-years-young brother through his transition from life to whatever lies beyond. I was so fortunate to be allowed to move in with my sister-in-law for 3 months, and during that time, his daughter and I filled every one of his last days with fun and adventure. His brain tumor made certain things challenging, but we found a way to do everything he wanted up until his very last day. Now I know how to describe my feelings after having that beautiful experience with him…closer to life. Thank you!

    • Peggy Payne
      November 29, 2022 at 5:53 pm Reply

      I’m glad that you all had those three months, Kellie. What a wonderful thing to have done! And I have to give credit to my husband for “closer to life.”

  • Joy Fernon
    March 9, 2023 at 6:01 am Reply

    The words in these posts, speak of wisdom that the writers have acquired over the years. I lost my husband in June 20 20. I have been trying to find my way and reinvent myself at some level. I am happy that my family is nearby I often reflect on the words my husband would frequently say, “Thank you for spending your life with me.“ His words take on special meaning for me, now that he is gone. Now I wish I had said to him, “Thank you for spending the rest of your life with me!“

    • Peggy Payne
      March 9, 2023 at 3:41 pm Reply

      From what you say here, Joy, I feel confident that you said all the important words to him. I’m sorry about your loss.

  • Barry C Watson
    September 20, 2023 at 2:09 pm Reply

    I’m 66 years old. I believe I’m in good health. I have observed the passing of entertainers I grew up with, actors and musicians, and people I have worked with and my youngest brother (more than a decade ago). I have seen George Burns live to be over 100 after smoking unfiltered cigars all his life and non-smokers get lung cancer from breathing second-hand smoke. It all comes down to each person’s DNA – something none of us have any control over. DNA makes one person susceptible to a health issue while another is not. Unfortunately, we don’t get a user manual that spells out what we have to watch out for. Add to that the idea that when we’re born, an unknown amount of time is deposited into our “life bank”. Every second we are alive, we make a withdrawal. Sometimes, through unwise choices we take a little more than a second’s time each second, taking an action that hasten’s our demise (smoking, excessive drinking, diet, etc.). From all of this I have decided that is what is most important is to live your life in a manner so that when you reach the end of it and there is nothing left in your life bank, that you can think to yourself, “I have lived a good life. I’ve had adventures that were fulfilling in some way. I treated others fairly. I have loved and been loved. I am ready to pass on. I am not afraid or sad, because I choose not to be.”

    • Peggy Payne
      September 21, 2023 at 2:11 pm Reply

      Sounds to me as if you’ve lived quite a good life, Barry–and have good years to go. Your last sentence is particularly helpful: “I choose not to be.” Thank for these thoughts.

  • […] Therapist Nicholas, I first wrote this six years ago when I was merely 68. It began: I seem to have reached The Age of Others Keeling Over. People keep […]

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