This year kicked off with a spate of shocking celebrity deaths that sent ripples around the world on a scale not seen since Princess Diana died nearly 20 years ago.
Apparently, 69 is the new 27, but if you knew you were going to die at 69 – or any specific age for that matter – what impact would this knowledge have? Would you follow a different path or would you simply sit there waiting to die? In fact would you want to know in advance the age at which you were going to pop your clogs?
Might it depend on what exactly that age turned out to be – whether it was decades in the future or only a few years away? To know that I was going to die relatively young would be devastating. How could I possibly accept that I would not see my children grow up, not be there to celebrate their milestones along the way and never meet my grandchildren? And what about my husband? He is definitely not widower material, so would knowing when I am to die allow me time to help him find someone to take my place?
I certainly couldn’t burden my children with this knowledge and yet it would be an unbearable secret to keep. A secret that would surely affect my outlook on life, shape my personality and ultimately distort their memories of me. Of course for countless people diagnosed with a terminal illness, an imposed time limit is exactly what they face. They may not know the exact age they will exit this world but they have a pretty good idea. I know a woman who upon finding out her mother had cancer feverishly set about creating memories, which begs the question why leave it so late?
So if I found out tomorrow that I was going to die at 69 what would I change? At this stage in my life (on the threshold of 60) I believe that my hunger for a fulfilling future on both a personal and professional level would be no different whether I had a sell by date or not. Whether I have ten years left or twenty-five, I want those remaining years to be the best they can be which is why I am already plotting to change to my life.
Unless death is sudden, resulting from a tragic accident or unexpected illness, most of us has the opportunity to put our house in some sort of order. My father died excruciatingly slowly over a great number of years whereas a friend’s father dropped dead suddenly without warning. For those of us left behind, a slow death provides an opportunity to say goodbye but from the point of view of the dying, I would rather go out with a sudden big bang anytime.
The question is would you want to know when you were going to die…
Thanks to Jeremy Banx and thereaper.rip for permission to reproduce this cartoon.