I was raised by my grandmother and among her generation of friends. The vast majority of my clients during 25 years of hospice volunteering were elderly. Now, I’m old (even though there are still moments when that surprises the socks off of me) so old age isn’t a new concept to me.
Nor to the old friend I had lunch with a couple of weeks ago. Roy and I worked together on quite a few projects over a 10- or 15-year span and always kind of looked at life through a similar lens. Roy is 90, so he’s had more time than I have to put something like COVID into perspective. When I picked him up at his adult-living facility and asked which cafe sounded like lunch to him, he tossed his walker into the backseat and replied: “Anywhere that doesn’t require a mask!”
As we sat eating sandwiches and onion rings, we discussed the fear that COVID-19 has instilled in so many people in our age groups and younger. Roy and I are both secure in our faith in God and not afraid of dying, though we’d rather not have to suffer too much in the process if we can avoid it. To us, it’s just the natural cycle of life: You get old, you get sick, you die.
Sure, we all wear seatbelts and approach stairs with caution, but most of us oldsters want to live our lives fully while we can. Living in fear sounds pretty unappealing to many of us. We want our kids and grandchildren to share their lives with us, not cower from life on our behalf. Obviously, that’s not a universal viewpoint. There are certainly many who have gone into voluntary quarantine for the last eight months, but Roy and I agree that we wouldn’t have missed living our lives during these times.
In my years with hospice and among family and friends, I’ve observed that old folks are usually much less afraid of dying than they are of being kept alive on tubes or trapped in isolation away from those they love most. Generally, the people I’ve listened to as they lived the end of their lives while in hospice care were pretty sanguine in their acceptance of death and the hereafter. Some had concerns about how certain family members might resolve issues in their lives, but also accepted that their own era of active influence was at an end.
November is National Hospice Month. Hospice organizations are peopled with wonderful folks at every level and deserve recognition from the communities they serve. I’m not currently volunteering with hospice, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of how they’ve had to alter their practices in the wake of COVID. It’s sure to have had an impact, but I have confidence they’ve found ways to keep assisting families by being there to support them and their loved ones as they all navigate the end-of-life maze. These are organizations you and your loved ones can trust.