Monday, August 8, 2011

"How Many of You Expect to Die?"

"How many of you want to be old when you do?"

A recent edition of On Being titled The Far Shore of Aging is a fine example of why I am a regular listener to Krista Tippett's podcast.

In the July 21st 2011 episode Tippett interviews Jane Gross, journalist, author of A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves, and founder of The New Old Age blog at The New York Times website.

My sister-in-law and her husband, my wife, and our family are caring for the woman who was once my mother-in-law as she descends into her Alzheimer's.  My feelings about this sort of death are not kind.  This is a horrible process.  My own mother is not well in dozens of small ways, but she has her wits.  She is aware of her decades of pain but she is still the person who was my mother.  Which is better, mindless comfort or mindful suffering?  Which is harder on the family?  What choice do we have?

In the course of her interview Gross said, "We live too long and we die too slow."  I almost cried.  On my way home from some errands I turned the car toward the local Barnes & Noble and bought my wife a copy of Gross's book.  I may read it myself.