On Aging and Loss

The bell curve of aging.
(Image: canva.com)

We all want to live a long and healthy life. We want to be the ones making it far through the bell curve of life expectancy. I know I do.

There’s an unanticipated problem with succeeding.

The longer we live, the more we outlive.

Initially, perhaps, we note the passing of celebrities, politicians, or other notables who had impact on our formative years. They need not be of our generation to be noted. Examples for me might be the passing of folks like Johnny Carson, Carl Sagan, a beloved high school teacher, and others.

Then, within our own peer group, we encounter those unfortunate souls who are part of the leading edge of our generation’s bell curve — those who simply die too soon. These are often acquaintances, classmates we’ve perhaps lost touch with, neighbors, and more. Mine started early when a former high school classmate was killed in an auto accident in our second year at the university.

As the bell curve continues, the numbers increase. A former boss. A co-worker whose office was across from mine. A fellow Corgi lover. Another fellow Corgi lover.

As I approach the top of the bell curve, which is around 73 years old for my demographic, the losses continue, become more frequent, and often hit closer to home. The most jarring are close same-generation family members.

And it will continue, as long as I continue.

As I (hopefully) progress into the left and older side of the bell curve, I’ll see more and more of my contemporaries pass away. At some point, I’ll also start seeing more and more of the generation behind passing as well. (Though there’ve certainly been several already. They represent the leading edge on their generation’s separate, trailing, bell curve.)

Do you realize
That everyone you know someday will die?
– Do You Realize?? by The Flaming Lips

We are all dying, of course. Some of us are just doing it faster or sooner than others.

The price we might pay for a long life is losing those around us who aren’t so fortunate.

Inevitable, perhaps, but painful nonetheless.

PS: Yes, my melancholy above is, in part, inspired by the pending loss of a very close family member overseas. Hug your loved ones.

7 thoughts on “On Aging and Loss”

  1. Yes Leo,life’s a bitch & then you die!
    I remember decades ago when your dogs left- I’ve known that feeling & others;but what’s the altenative -live forever & watch everything die?
    If you’ve enjoyed it & left something good behind, then chill!
    See you later.

  2. I believe that, as one grows older, “acceptance” is key to happiness.
    We should in my view strive to become capable of generating our own happiness, irrespective of circumstances, or losses.
    Not easy of course!

    As regards death, for me personally, I hope that it will be an exciting new phase of existence, but of course I am in no hurry to go either. I have also been trying to establish – at least to my own satisfaction – whether there is indeed some sort of afterlife. In this respect, one person who had no motive to lie has even described an impossible situation where a complete stranger (in this case a stewardess on a plane) has conveyed a message from a dead relative (their father) which no one else could have known about. But of course, it is not exactly a repeatable experiment, so the jury is still out on this as far as I am concerned.

  3. Hugs to you, Leo, as you anticipate your pending loss. I’m a few years older than you are. My son told me that as far as he’s concerned, I’m going to live forever and so far, nothing has happened to prove him wrong. Well, one day he will be proven wrong and at almost 77, I’m almost okay with that. Eisenhower said (I can’t find this when I search for it but I clearly remember it) that his death should not be a cause for sorrow but rather a cause for celebration because “I’m an old man and I’ve had a good life.” I think about those words frequently and they describe me. I have an 11-year-old granddaughter whom I want to see married with kids (and people in our family don’t start having kids until past 30) and I see no reason why I won’t be a centenarian. But if I’m not, I’m not. As John Denver said in “Poems, Prayers, and Promises.” it’s been a good life all in all.

  4. I am a healthy, active 85 year old who fully understands what you are saying. It’s sad to lose so many friends and family who are my same age or younger. My salvation is my 98 year old golf partner who gives me inspiration. I’ve always said my hill is a cliff.

  5. What a great post that seemed to be aimed right at me. At 74 I am at the top of the curve and am seeing more and more friends and aquantences die at an increasing rate not to mention the celebbrities I grew up watching. Facebook friends are going quiet for 2 years and then not responding to my enquiries. So far I’ve made it through colon cancer, skin cancers and a host of other health problems and have a callendewr filled with doctors appointments. But I also see friends my age developing problems that I know they won’t make it though because there are no cures which makes my problems seem pretty insegnificant. Every new day is a gift now and I better start to get that through my skull and make some changes.

  6. Yes. We never know what tomorrow may bring. We lost our daughter to SIDS in 1984. Grieving is a process. Acceptance is our only option.

    Going through the pain and embracing it helps. I acted out in so many horrible disfunctional ways. The worse part is that I added to the pain of my loved ones who were still alive. I wish I could take that back. perhaps I had to learn. Doing my best to heal some of those wounds. Living in today. That is what we have and it is better than hiding or hurting others. Thanks for bringing up the topic. Many people don’t want to discuss or think about it. This is huge.

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