Death is Part of Living.

March 31, 2024

Death is Part of Living.

May 29, 2023

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent.” – Steve Jobs

Some say there is arguably no better time in history to be old. This is in part because the power between generations has been renegotiated and the aging have not lost control over their own existence. My mother and father in-law were living independently in their home when my 93-year-old father-in-law fell and hit his head. As a couple, they were still driving and going to the “club” for dinner Friday nights. He went to the office every day, and my mother-in-law regularly audited classes at the University of Colorado Denver campus.

They had more liberty and personal control at their ages than previous generations.   

When we lose our independence due to health issues, we either fight back or give in. Currently my father-in-law is in limbo.  His mind is no longer working due to a fall, but his internal organs are still functioning. He fades into and out of consciousness but is no longer mobile on his own.  His lifespan is continuing, but his health span has been severely compromised.

Many of us are unprepared to deal with this type of situation. We ask: Will new caring environments for the terminally ill be available for all who need them? Will the concept of a good death gain wider acceptance? What actually constitutes a good death? What if powerful new therapies emerge which can slow down the aging process and postpone death even further?  What are the consequences for society if the average life expectancy rises to 100 or even more? 

Longevity in developed countries has increased due to a combination of factors which include not only organized healthcare, but also improved living conditions, disease prevention and behavioral changes, such as reductions in smoking. Eating a balanced diet, exercise, finding purpose and valuing social relationships also help extend one’s expected lifetime. 

For the dying however, scarcity of time takes on overwhelming significance since it threatens the self. Contrary to widespread belief, fear is not necessarily the outstanding feature in the psychological anticipation of death, it is dying alone. Ultimately, beliefs about the final transition are deeply personal and often shaped by cultural, religious and individual perspective. The question of what happens after death remains the fundamental and existential aspect of the human experience; a subject few middle-aged people want to discuss.

Over the years, medicine has found ways to cut the mortality of heart attacks, respiratory illnesses, stroke, cancer and other conditions that threaten adult life, thus pushing the fatal moment of many diseases further outward.  People with incurable diagnoses can do remarkably well for a long time. In essence however, the normal process of aging can be slowed through diet and exercise, but it cannot be stopped. 

The experts tell us that “death is very much a part of living. And death is a natural part of all our lives. With every life comes death. This is what makes us human,” they say. In Western society, we don’t like to talk about dying. It is uncomfortable, so instead we avoid it. Even medical professionals don’t like talking about death since they are taught to fix and save lives.  

The problem with not talking about it however, is that we have no idea what to say, what to do, or how to act when this inevitable part of our lives approaches, whether for ourselves or someone we love. The intent of this series of guest posts is to share wisdom about a subject that confronts all of us; one which results in “Time poverty” as Chip notes in his recent book, Learning to Love Midlife.

-Barbara

Read Barbara’s guest posts next weekend to learn of alternative care options and how advance care planning can be one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones. 

Barbara Kreisman earned a PhD in Leadership and Organizational Development from the University of Texas and is an Emerita Professor at the University of Denver where she served as Associate Dean of the College of Business for 17 years.  Prior to entering the academic environment, Barb was a senior leader at Dell Technologies.  She is currently affiliated with the University of Denver’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging and will return there upon completion of the LSI program. She is a four-time MEA alum.

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 to 
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Apr 22, 2024
 to 
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Life Begins at 50: Embracing Your Second Adulthood with Jeff Hamaoui

April 29, 2024
 to 
May 4, 2024
Baja, Mexico

Radical Transitions: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself with Stacy Peralta, Christine Sperber & Teddi Dean

May 6, 2024
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May 11, 2024
Baja, Mexico