Friday, September 4, 2015

How long do you want your parents to live?

I know, that's a horrible question even to ask. "Forever," is the correct answer, of course, and I get it.

But realistically speaking, is there a point at which we may be better off just, well, not being around anymore? The point where the difficulties of everyday living outweigh the benefits?

I suggest there is, and it's obviously different for everyone. Somewhere along the way, it gets too painful to move and breathe, and no amount of medicine can fix it. That's the time when you just hope you can gracefully exit stage left and be on your way to the next great adventure.

I bring this up because this Sunday would have been my dad's 86th birthday, and I have to tell you, there was no way that man was going to make it to 86. Or if he did, there's no way he was going to do it comfortably.

Dad tried to take care of himself somewhat in his later years, but decades of smoking, drinking and questionable dietary practices were inevitably going to take their toll. In fact, they did take a toll when a heart attack whisked him away at age 70.

As I mentioned to a work colleague recently, we're all ultimately "terminal." It's just that some of us will get to the end faster than others.

All I'm looking for is to have as many years as possible of relative good health and pain-free living. Then, when it's my time to go, I'd like the decline to be quick and easy.

None of us has full control over whether that happens, but we do have at least some influence through the way we choose to live. Exercise, stress management, a good diet, maintaining social relationships, always having something fun to do. These are key elements of a long and happy existence.

Just so long as you recognize that this life has an unavoidable expiration date, as do your parents' lives, and that you can make the years prior to that expiration date happy ones, then you're doing this whole "life" thing correctly.

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