The Alchemy of Age.

November 15, 2020

The Alchemy of Age.

May 29, 2023

It is now early November 2020, and has been a little more than two weeks since the passing of my 88-year-old father Joseph Cardinale. It was both sad to see my father pass away as well as a reminder that each of us will one day shrug off these mortal coils. No matter your religious or spiritual belief, we all viscerally understand that each of us has a start date as well as an end date on this little blue rock.

But neither of those dates matter. It is the hyphen in-between those dates that matters.

As I evolve into my own elderhood and hopefully reach for the brass ring of becoming a Modern Elder, I think more about that hyphen. More about how age allows us to lengthen that hyphen. To thicken that hyphen with experiences and stories about our lives. To deepen the color of that hyphen with the thrilling and unexpected twists and turns of a life well lived.

That’s the alchemy of age. Age is not something to be afraid of. Yes, we will have all to manage our physicality, to stay healthy for as long as possible, and as my Beloved says, to “live long and die short.” That’s what age allows you to do. It allows you to expand on the “live long” part. That’s how the alchemy of age lets you change your point of view from age being something to avoid to age being something that allows you to relish the lengthening, thickening and deepening of your own hyphen.

When preparing my father’s service, I had the privilege of exploring his life through pictures.

My sister and I found pictures of my father as a baby, as a young child, as a young man, as a father, as a mid-life adult and finally as a grandfather. I saw a young man excited to be strong and vibrant as an actor in New York. I saw him as a father fall in love with his two young children. I saw him as an adult build a deep web of love and family around him. I saw a grandfather understand the hands of time as he built a foundation of love for his grandchildren.

That experience of exploring my father’s life turned the sadness of loss, into the wonder of appreciation for a life well lived. A life filled with exploration, curiosity, excitement and love.

That is the alchemical transformation that my father’s passing gave to me. A lens through which I could see age as something to relish. Growing older is now a way to complete my hyphen and imbue my hyphen with something I can be proud of on my last day.

Knowing that we are all finite has always been a strong driver of my thirst for a life worth seeing in pictures on my last day. In the past, the stoic phrase “Memento Mori” essentially translating to “Remember, thou art mortal” used to frighten me. I used to wonder, “why would anyone have that phrase as a guiding light?” But now, as I am firmly in mid-life, I truly understand. I understand that you must go through an alchemical transformation to see age as wisdom, age as hyphen, age as the sweetness of life. Then it is clear that aging no longer is alarming, but rather a blossoming of a life well lived.

That is the lesson I learned; to look at grief from an alchemical mindset. The retrospective of my father's life transformed grief into gratitude. Now, I challenge you to do the same. To apply the alchemy of age to your own life and create a wonderful hyphen.

Steven Cardinale ( is a MEA alum, entrepreneur, co-author of "Becoming Beloveds", author of "Synaptic Alchemy" (, and Blue Ocean strategist.

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